From giving birth in a jail cell to talking into a toilet bowl, emotions run the gamut for one North End resident gearing up for her roles in an upcoming play about women in prison.
On May 16, Sarasvàti Productions will debut Jail Baby at the University of Winnipeg’s Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, an at times harrowing, other times hilarious, take on the cycle of incarceration of women.
"These are mostly poor women, and poverty and circumstance is the biggest factor in most of their lives," said actor Tracey Nepinak, a North End resident who has been acting for more than 20 years.
"It reflects the ridiculousness of the justice system when it’s taken to the nth degree."
Among other characters, Nepinak plays Tanis, who gives birth to her daughter, Jasmine, while in prison. As the play progresses, audiences follow both Tanis — in and out of prison — along with Jasmine, as she floats through foster care and finds herself becoming a part of the justice system.
"It’s a commentary on the cycle of abuse and poverty through generations . . . and the reality of that cycle," Nepinak said.
"It’s the issue of the prison system and how it fails at every turn."
In between, Nepinak juggles roles as a doctor and family violence counsellor, while also finding herself in scenes setting up dates with male inmates via a toilet bowl.
"It’s great. It needs some relief because it’s really heavy," Nepinak said.
"I know women like this. It’s anything but funny."
The play, written by Hope McIntyre and Cairn Moore, was developed through workshops with women prisoners across Manitoba.
"We started working on the play out of a desire to work with and tell the story of criminalized women," said McIntyre.
"We went into correctional institutions and did drama sessions with women, which was a chance for us both to give back and it gave us an opportunity to hear their stories and create the play based on that."
Jail Baby runs May 16 to 26. The Asper Centre for Theatre and Film is located at 400 Colony St.
For more info, or tickets, call 204-586-2236 or visit www.sarasvati.ca.
— with file from Steph Crosier