Two southeast Winnipeg women are set to share their personal journeys and examine their identities with a wider audience.
Sarasvàti Productions’ FemFest 2012: Staging Identity will run until Sept. 22 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, located at the University of Winnipeg.
Now in its 10th year, the annual festival was established by Sarasvàti’s founder and artistic director Hope McIntyre to showcase female playwrights and provide them with theatrical development opportunities in a socially conscious environment to create an event aimed at all members of the community.
Sarasvàti Productions was incorporated in Toronto in 1998 and Manitoba’s North End-based incarnation was founded in 2000.
The festival features numerous plays and the roster includes River Park South resident Francesca Cotroneo, who will be performing on stage for the first time with Immigration Stories. Co-ordinated and directed by McIntyre, and created and performed by an ensemble cast, the play is based on real stories of immigrant women in Manitoba. Cotroneo hails from Italy.
"It’s been very hard work, but these are very powerful stories about either discrimination or disappointments which show that the streets aren’t always paved with gold," said Cotroneo, who is a psychiatric social worker and cross-cultural counsellor who studied at the University of Manitoba.
"My piece is about the fear for immigrants and how it can be a new world for their parents trying to make a better life, leaving friends behind and dealing with language barriers, which can all be very difficult."
Drawing from her personal experiences, Cotroneo hopes the play will fuse past, present and future perspectives for audiences (there will be performances on Sept. 20 and 22).
"I hope immigrants now don’t take things for granted, as before there weren’t social workers like me to help them. But we’re also saying if you work hard you can also achieve what you want in this country," she said.
Cotroneo, who is also a volunteer counsellor, said the festival provides a platform to raise awareness of social issues: "For me, this is powerful, as it promotes healing."
Also, the work of Royalwood resident and full-time artist Cindy Dyson will be on display during the closing night cabaret.
Dyson — who works with acrylic on canvas using palette knives — will showcase two abstract city scenes featuring Portage Avenue and Donald Street and Yonge Street in Toronto.
"This festival is about staging identity and my art is part of my identity. I’ve learned a lot about myself through my art and it’s nice to be part of an event that’s celebrating women," Dyson said.
For more information, visit sarasvati.ca. To view Dyson’s work, visit www.cindydyson.blogspot.com.