Friday, October 7, 2011

FEMFEST - a Festival of Women Playwrights – an interview with Hope McIntyre of Sarasvati Productions

I interviewed Hope McIntyre, the Artistic Director of Sarasvati Productions and the driving force behind Femfest. Where other festivals with women at their focus have died out in Canada, the drive and determination of Sarasvati and all its volunteers, has  Femfest striding in its ninth year.

Hope is herself a playwright, hence her passion and is at present developing a new theatre piece called "Jail Baby".  Hope Kindly sent the opening monologue:

Spotlight on Jasmine, about 8 months pregnant. 
As she speaks she changes into Remand Centre issue clothes.

JASMINE:      They say you can’t remember that far back – back to being born. Maybe I don’t remember, but if I close my eyes, I can feel the concrete against my slippery little body. I feel metal. I have nightmares of sliding out into a world of bars and cold and noise and suffocation. It’s like something I can’t escape. Born to be in prison. Born a prisoner. Sounds like a bad country song. Even worse, I became known as the toilet bowl baby. Now there’s a good song title. If only someone had taught me to play guitar, I could be traveling the world telling my sorry tale. I’d record an album in Memphis and they’d make a movie about me. (now fully dressed in prison garb, she looks down at herself) I’m just fulfilling my destiny. This is what my mom was wearing when I was born. I’m my mom 18 years later.

I asked Hope what were her future plans for Jail Baby:
"In terms of the plans, we are doing rewrites this year and working towards a full production and publication in May 2013. Our goal is to produce it for the general public but then also take it on tour to correctional facilities, to criminology students, for performances for lawyers, judges, correctional staff and politicians. Our goal is to have the piece seen by a wide audience, including those who would not necessarily attend a show in a formal theatre setting so for us touring to community venues will be crucial. In this way we believe we can allow those who can relate to the play see it as well as those who need to see the other side of what happens when women are criminalized."
Hope speaks more in depth about the more serious inspirations and  implications of a show like Jail Baby at 13 minutes and 35 seconds in the podcast.

What inspired Femfest?
“FemFest was developed in response to my hearing from women playwrights that they were having trouble getting their work produced. It was clear that by not getting productions it was then harder to get more productions. We established FemFest to break this cycle and in hopes that by showcasing the work of women playwrights, more of their work would be picked up by other companies. We also set up FemFest to allow for a networking opportunity for these women. Having a place to come and share work, learn from other artists and just talk about being a playwright seemed invaluable at the time and continues to be important.

And what more for Femfest?
"In the long-term we’d love to get to the point where women are being produced so much that we don’t need a festival to showcase them. We are working towards a day when FemFest is unnecessary, but we know that is a very long-term goal. For our immediate future our hope is to continue to find ways to offer women artists what they need most. We don’t plan to grow any larger but do plan to continue to explore new initiatives to work with the community.” - Hope McIntyre.

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