For the 12th year in a row this September, FemFest will provide women in theatre the opportunity to showcase their talents. Presented by local theatre company, Sarasvàti Productions, FemFest 2014: She’s Got the Power aims to create a supportive environment for women where issues important to them can be discussed.
The festival features readings, workshops, dance and acrobatic performances. This year’s lineup includes veteran and emerging artists who bring something different to the table. Stage manager Kaitlyn Kriss, who has been with Sarasvàti Productions for four years and FemFest for two, said there is a wide variety of shows this year, ranging from comedy to drama, which will help attract a diverse crowd. “It’s kind of all over the map, you never really know what to expect with FemFest,” said Kriss. The festival’s topics run the gamut from gang issues and sexism to GLBT* rights, yet they don’t focus specifically on a single issue. “We want to do theatre that impacts people and impacts change and creates discussion,” said Kriss.
This year, local playwright and FemFest veteran Alison McLean will be presenting her play Skin Deep. It will be read aloud by four actors on Sept. 13. Skin Deep is about a 19-year-old woman who considers herself a rebel in her family. She thinks she has escaped them when she moves out at 18, only to find herself involved in planning her mother’s wedding. Five characters contribute their own conflicts in the nascent play, including one who struggles with coming out to her family.
We want to do theatre that impacts people and impacts change and creates discussion. ￼
While working as a teaching assistant at the University of Winnipeg alongside Prof. Cairn Moore, McLean studied the play Angels in America with her class. The group discussed the question of coming out to family and whether it remains a difficult thing to do today. They agreed that although times have changed and there seems to be a lot more support for the GLBT* community, it’s still very difficult to come out to your family, your parents in particular. “While there is obviously a lot more awareness, and a lot more support, even celebration of alternative lifestyles now, it still seems to me that that critical moment when a child tells their parents that they’re gay or lesbian or transgender is still a difficult thing to do,” said McLean. “That part hasn’t changed, necessarily.”
McLean hopes her play will tackle issues of rebellion, stereotyping and how to cope with these kinds of conflicts in your family. “I encourage people to come and listen and give feedback and experience something different in theatre if they haven’t before,” said McLean.
For FemFest newcomers, Kriss said the festival’s opening and closing cabarets are a good way to experience a whole grab bag of different acts. But other than taking in the cabarets, she encourages people to just take a chance on a show.
FemFest runs from Sept. 13 to 20 at the University of Winnipeg Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. For more information, visit sarasvati.ca.
– Ashley Field is a local journalism student, painter and blogger at ajvfield.com.