With the fourth phase of Manitoba’s pandemic plan for restoring safe spaces allowing live stage performances to resume with limited capacity and physical distancing measures, the show will go on for Sarasvàti Productions’ annual feminist theatre festival, FemFest, one of the first live theatre events to occur in Winnipeg since the March closures.
While having humble beginnings back in 2003 as a small event meant to showcase female playwrights and their work, FemFest has grown into a full-scale festival, garnering national attention and featuring diverse lineups of female and non-binary theatre artists from across Canada and all over the world.
The goals of the festival include showcasing women playwrights and emerging theatre artists as well as providing a platform to address female-centred social issues through performance art, installations, music and dance.
The theme for this year’s festival is “engaging community,” which the organizers aim to do through workshops for novice and veteran theatre practitioners to hone their skills, develop new projects and attend lectures delivered by experts in the field. These events are not limited to theatre folk, however, and Sarasvàti hopes for everyone to enjoy the magic of theatre safely, despite these unpredictable times.
What’s different about this year’s offerings is that the festival is adopting a hybrid approach and advertises both in-person and online events to abide by the province’s health and safety procedures.
One such event includes livestreamed screenings of Montreal playwright Alexandria Haber’s Alice and the World We Live In, starring local powerhouse performers Elena Anciro and Ray Strachan. The play chronicles a woman’s struggles as she tries to cope with the loss of a loved one. Screenings will take place both online and in a socially distanced manner at Assiniboine Park on Sept. 23, 25 and 26.
Another show featured via livestreaming only, Monstrous, by Sarah Waisvisz, is a one-woman autobiographical show that provides commentary on Canada’s multiculturalism. Through incorporating dance, song, projections and audience participation, the audience joins the protagonist on her journey of self-discovery. The piece stars Waisvisz as herself and was directed by Eleanor Crowder. The performance will be streamed from Sept. 23 to 25.
In addition to providing different viewing options for events to adhere to health and safety protocols, Sarasvàti Productions is also implementing a digital self-declaration form for guests to fill out if physically attending a performance.
Other measures include timed arrival slots, so as not to exceed lobby capacity for indoor performances, a new refund policy to allow for last-minute ticket cancellations if guests are experiencing symptoms, mask requirements for all staff and volunteers as well as cashless concession and ticket sales.
Tickets for this year’s festival are $15 for single shows and $50 for festival passes.
FemFest 2020: Engaging Community runs from Sept. 19 to 26. For more information on the festival schedule and COVID-19 protocols, visit sarasvati.ca.