IF you’re one of the thousands who line up every July to take in diverse, affordable plays and solo performances at the fringe festival, Hope McIntyre has a message for you.

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This article was published 17/9/2011 (3661 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Karl Thordarson gets between Adam Charbonneau (left) and Nan Fewchuk in FemFest's Magpie.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Karl Thordarson gets between Adam Charbonneau (left) and Nan Fewchuk in FemFest's Magpie.

IF you’re one of the thousands who line up every July to take in diverse, affordable plays and solo performances at the fringe festival, Hope McIntyre has a message for you.

"Good theatre doesn’t end at the fringe," says the artistic director of Sarasvàti Productions, which puts on the week-long FemFest celebration of theatre by female playwrights. "People who enjoy the fringe should come and check out FemFest."

The ninth annual FemFest, held entirely at the University of Winnipeg’s Canwest Centre for Theatre and Film, opens tonight at 7 p.m. with a variety cabaret featuring music, dance, short films, visual art and theatrical pieces, all created and performed by women.

The festival has a budget of about $70,000 and draws an audience of about 1,200. All its plays, both local and touring, have a ticket price of $10.

The 2011 theme, Staging Inspiration, points to Sarasvàti’s commitment to theatre that aims to inspire dialogue and social change.

Two plays deal with criminal offenders.

Magpie by Edmonton’s Katherine Koller is about a woman who takes in paroled ex-convicts and tries to teach them life skills so they can reintegrate. The local four-actor production stars Nan Fewchuk as Magpie and Adam Charbonneau as a convicted rapist and murderer under her roof.

"Throughout the play, you really start to change your sympathies," says McIntyre. "You think she’s doing it to help these men along… but you soon learn that she has a different agenda."

Jail Baby, co-written by McIntyre and Cairn Moore, is a still-evolving one-hour play based on experiences of incarcerated Manitoba women, most of them aboriginal. It’s being presented as a work-in-progress.

The writers visited jailed women and led them in exercises and theatre games to help draw out their stories. One of their key concerns, McIntyre says, was "how our incarceration affects our children."

In Jail Baby, a mix of dramatic and darkly funny scenes, the central character was born in the Winnipeg Remand Centre and is now going to jail, pregnant herself. Many women offenders "are repeating a cycle of constant imprisonment, living in poverty, and not being able to see a way out," the playwright says.

Some ex-offenders have been invited to see the show. The long-term goal is to tour it to correctional institutions.

Here are some other festival highlights:

This year’s artist in residence is Zena Edwards from London, England, a black woman of Caribbean heritage. Her solo show Travelling Light combines poetry, visuals, song and movement in a story of Edwards’ relationship with her mother, who reunited with her own West Indian mother 60 years after they were separated.

The cancelled production Pyaasa has been replaced with Under the Mango Tree, a touching solo show by Vancouver’s Veenesh Dubois that earned a five-star review from the Free Press at this year’s fringe. It’s about a girl in Fiji and her bond with her father, who emigrates to Canada ahead of the family.

Regina’s Kelley Jo Burke performs Ducks on the Moon, a "candid, humorous and raw" show based on Burke’s experience of raising a child with autism.

The closing cabaret, Sept. 24 at 9 p.m., is hosted by radio personality Chrissy Troy and features films, dance, standup and sketch comedy, music and visual art, all by women.

For a complete festival schedule, see www.femfest.ca

 

alison.mayes@freepress.mb.ca