We hope you have been well, and keeping up with the many activities that SAWITRI Theatre has been offering. Read on to know more about all things SAWITRI. This year, we are hosting our 3rd annual Mississauga Multilingual Fringe Festival, featuring ten plays and forty performances. In September, we are also back, again for the third year in a row, with SAWITRI Theatre’s annual Folkfest, this time with Nick Pandya and orchestra!! Our folkfest tends to sell out fast, so if you haven’t booked your tickets yet, please do it soon. Scroll down further for details
We also took time to chat with Ashish ‘Ash’ Varma, a veteran filmmaker, and Suchiththa Wickremesooriya, a well-known actor. Each of them provides an insight into their respective crafts, the industry, and also gives some pointers to those who are pursuing acting and/or filmmaking.
SAWITRI Theatre, now in its 20th year, is also looking to acquire its own theatre space to share space with the community and to tell stopries that we want to tell. . To ascertain the viability of such a capital project, we have put out a call for consultants to undertake a feasibility study. Read on for details on the call for consultants!
We are collaborating with Julian Frid to create an improv ensemble of South Asian artists to perform at corporate as well as cultural events. Anyone interested in improv theatre should sign up for our workshop. Detailed call for improv ensemble workshop participants can also be found in this issue.
We hope you join us for one (or all) of our activities. We thrive on your constant support! Just to remind you, we are always looking for volunteers, upcoming actors and theatre artists all round the year on a rolling basis for our various activities. If you think you can join us, just send us an email! We are always happy to meet new people to include them in our SAWITRI Family.
To sum up, for the August 2023 issue of the SAWITRI newsletter, the following are included:
SAWITRI’s annual fringe festival is fast approaching, with many performances and workshops! Mark your calendars for August 14th to 27th, as the MMFF returns to Sampradaya Theatre, Mississauga, offering an incredible lineup of plays in multiple languages. The MMFF has firmly established itself as a vital component of Mississauga’s cultural calendar, captivating audiences with its vibrant showcase of languages and cultures. This unique festival pays homage to the rich artistic expressions of Asia, with languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Urdu, and English taking center stage. By promoting linguistic diversity, the MMFF fosters an inclusive atmosphere, allowing attendees to explore different cultures through the power of theatre.
The festival will present 10 different theatre productions with a total of 40 performances, produces and performed by some of Mississauga’s best talent. Audience members can purchase tickets for a price of $12 each, or a festival pass for $100, enabling them to watch 10 shows of their choice. SAWITRI Theatre will also be hosting free workshops which participants can register for in to advance their work on their acting skills during the fringe. More information can be found on both, SAWITRI’s website and social media.
Abhimanyu Acharya is a multilingual fiction writer, playwright, translator, and scholar. He is the recipient of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar (2020), the Sanhita Manch playwriting award (2020), and Sahapedia-UNESCO Fellowship (2019). He has been longlisted thrice for the TOTO Awards for creative writing in English, and his doctoral dissertation was nominated for the American distinguished dissertation awards (2023). His plays have been performed in different cities across India, the US, and Canada, and his works have appeared in or are forthcoming in Identity Theory, Out of Print, Hakara, Gulmohar Quarterly, Readingroom, and Karvaan India amongst others. He has recently been commissioned by Bhasha Centre and Goethe-Institut (Bengaluru) to write a new full-length play in response to the writings of Bertolt Brecht.
Based out of London, Ontario, he is happy and excited to join SAWITRI Theatre as the new assistant artistic director!
Ashish ‘Ash’ Varma is a filmmaker who has written, produced and directed over 35 short films.
He is currently working on his debut feature film. Out summer intern, Samay Bhagat, had a
chance to converse with him via email about all things filmmaking. Edited excerpts as follows:
Samay: We would love to know your training as a filmmaker. Where and how did you learn?
Ash: I’ve had no formal training, everything I’ve learned (and still learning) is through the
process of observation. With the popularity of Youtube, all of my Mentors/Teachers reside
online. And then there’s practice and a good network of industry professionals without
execution, it’s just theory. So go out and shoot.
Samay: What got you into films in the first place?
Ash: My Mother jokes that when she was pregnant with me, my Father took her to a film in
India. Yes, quite filmy, but with my obsession with Filmmaking, there may be some truth to it.
Samay: Tell us a little about the current film you are making. What is it about? Where did you
get the idea from?
Ash: Working on our first feature called Desi Fiction. It’s a collection of 4 short stories, with
interconnecting plot lines. I’ve always been fascinated by this genre, so the idea came quite
SAWITRI Theatre Quarterly Newsletter- August 2023
Samay: What do you hope the viewers take away from the film?
Ash: It’s a commercial film, so as long as the audience is entertained, we’ve accomplished what
we set out to do.
Samay: How would you say your experience growing up as a South Asian Canadian has
influenced your work in the film industry?
Ash: Still classify myself as an Indie Filmmaker, and not part of the larger film fraternity. I do
feel blessed to have the best of both cultures, so this is what you get to see in our films.
Samay: Both of your most recent works ('Hinglish' and 'Me hu Brampton') delve into the South
Asian experience in the West. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired delving into this
theme, and how it’s appeared in your life?
Ash: With Hinglish, this was pulled right out of our lives. We have a 15-year-old, who is also
trying to balance the South Asian label in Canada. With the response we’ve received on this film,
it’s nice to know that there are other families with similar experiences. Main Hoon
Brampton was brought to me as a poetry piece, which we decided to convert into a short
narrative. It was our way of giving credit to a place where South Asians can feel at home.
Samay: Based on your expertise, what would you provide as a piece of advice to anyone looking
to break into the film industry?
Ash: Write. Shoot. Edit. Repeat.
Appoint a Feasibility Study Consultant for the assessment of the decision to acquire a physical location by SAWITRI Theatre Group
SAWITRI Theatre Group is seeking a highly qualified and experienced feasibility study consultant to conduct an in-depth analysis of its needs and activities, and to assess potential strategies to acquire a financially viable physical location for its activities.
The feasibility study consultant will be responsible for the following:
1. STAKEHOLDER SURVEY:
• Conduct a comprehensive survey of stakeholders, including but not limited to staff, board members, and potential users of the space. The potential number of interviews may range between 40 and 50. Potential consultants are advised to take the resources/time into account for this while sending in the proposals.
• Gather feedback on the current needs, expectations, and preferences of stakeholders regarding physical space.
• Identify any specific challenges or requirements.
2. NEEDS ASSESSMENT:
• Evaluate the size, availability, affordability, and other relevant factors of the current
• Identify which other organizations currently provide similar programs in the geographical
area that SAWITRI operates in and assess whether there are “Gaps” that justify the need for SAWITRI to proceed with acquiring a physical location.
• Financial Feasibility Assessment this should, at a minimum, include details of:
• Expected operating revenues over a 5 year period AND
• Initial “one time” starting costs.
• Capital expenses.
• Ongoing operating expenses over a 5 year period.
• Provide a clear recommendation on the Financial Feasibility of acquiring a physical
3. SPACE REQUIREMENTS AND LOCATION:
• Provide recommendations on the size and type of facility that is appropriate, taking into
account factors such as accessibility, proximity to stakeholders, cost-effectiveness and compatibility with the organization’s objectives.
• Exploring alternatives around availability of long-term leases from municipal governmental authorities and /or Universities based upon the community driven objectives (e.g., promotion
of Theatre / South Asian cultural initiatives etc.) of such organizations.
• Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each potential location, providing detailed
information on key considerations.
4. STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT:
• Propose strategies and approaches to make the physical space a reality.
Phase Structure of the Feasibility Study
Phase 1: Advised Timeframe: Between October 2023 to December 2023
1. One in person meeting to kick-off the study.
2. Interview 40 people from staff., stakeholders, and beneficiaries. Staff
3. Plan visit to the current physical space and set up two or three teams calls to discuss
interviews and findings (challenges or requirements)
Phase 2: Advised Timeframe: Between January 2024 to March 2024
1. Needs and Assessments.
2. Present draft report to the SAWITRI team in person.
3. Submit draft report for review & comments.
4. Edit, incorporate changes, and submit final report.
Interested Consultants should send their proposal and credentials which should include the following:
1. A letter of interest
2. References to at least two similar proposals completed by the consultant in last 24 months.
3. Expertise/disciplines of the proposed team members who may conduct the study.
4. A resource matrix that indicates the number of hours allocated for each of the tasks mentioned in
Phases 1 and 2 for each of the team members.
Kindly email your proposal to email@example.com
For more information about SAWITRI Theatre, please visit sawitri.ca or follow us on Facebook @SawitriTheatreGroup and Instagram @sawitritheatre
Deadline to apply: September 5th, 2023
SAWITRI THEATRE’S IMPROV ENSEMBLE TRAINING
Call for Participants
SAWITRI Theatre is creating an Improv ensemble that will perform for corporate and cultural events. Supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, this project aims to provide training to up-and-coming improv artists in honing their improv skills and mastering the art of thinking on
one’s feet, team building, and communication in performance.
Who can/should apply?
Anyone who is interested in improv and is between the ages of 16 to 60. However, if you do not fall within this bracket and you still want to learn, please let us know. We want to hear from you!
Gender, age, ability, ethnicity, religion, caste, race, and nationality are no bar. (Include the line from MAC call about we are open to folks not falling in this bracket)
Currently, we are seeking potential and emerging improv artists to work in English. If you are interested in improv, sketch, comedy, or short skits, and would like to develop your craft further, this is for you.
What is in it for you and how will it work?
You get to train with some of the best improv mentors in business over five weeks and ten sessions. Workshops will be twice a week, and one batch will consist of ten to twelve participants. At the end of the five-week workshop, an improv ensemble will be formed that will get to perform on a regular, free-lance basis to corporate and cultural houses on behalf of SAWITRI Theatre.
The workshops will be held from 14 th September, 2023 to 15 th October 2023, every Thursday and Sunday, from 7 to 9:30 PM.
Who will be conducting the workshop?
Julian Frid is a teacher of improv at the University of Toronto. He began his improv journey in high school with the Canadian Improv Games, and then with the Impatient Theatre Company, the Second City, and the Bad Dog Theatre company.
He has sought out additional training with the Improv Olympic as well as the Upright Citizens Brigade in the US. He is a founding member of the award winning theatre troupe Sex T Rex, which has garnered critical acclaim across the country, including awards from Just For Laughs and the CBC for their comedic brand of theatrical storytelling.
How to apply?
Please email your resume (feel free to include links to examples of your work and anything that may add to your application).
The deadline to apply is 14 th August.
When can you hear from us, and what is the selection process?
The selection of the participants will happen in two phases. You can expect to hear from us within one week of the deadline. If selected, you will be invited to a one-day improv game workshop where your improv skills and potential will be honed and tested. The workshop doubles as an audition, and the final selection of the participants will happen in the last week of August.
Each session, of 150 minutes each, will cost 10 CAD. The participants can pay the workshop fees once the selection process is complete. There is no application fees.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
Suchiththa Wickremesooriya (he/him) is a multi-disciplinary Sri Lankan-Canadian artist-
educator-producer. Select recent acting credits include Bend it Like Beckham (North American premiere, Toronto), This Earth of Majesty (Dauntless Theatre), Bombay Black (Alberta Theatre Projects). As an educator, he holds a M.A in Musical Theatre and was the Associate Producer, Education for Shakespeare in Action. Over the many years at SIA, he has taught and programmed many workshops to teens, kids, seniors and young adults. He specializes in bringing out embodied, physical performances out of learners of all levels. He has taught across three continents, but on this one at Toronto Metropolitan University, Arts Etobicoke, across TDSB and TDCSB schools and at McEwan University in Edmonton.
Our intern, Samay Bhagat, interviewed Suchiththa via email. Edited excerpts as follows:
Samay: Tell us a little about your experience as both an artist and educator. How did you get started in the field of acting?
Suchiththa: I actually started as an actor in Amateur musicals at my university, I had no idea I was going to fall down the rabbit hole of acting at the time. My first shows were The Wedding Singer, Singing in the Rain, Cymbeline and Timon of Athens. I've been an educator since I was in Highschool, but I've been working with actors for about 8 years now.
Samay: As an experienced educator in the industry, what are some challenges you often see beginners face at the start of their acting journey? How are these issues often overcome?
Suchiththa: I think one of the biggest issues is an issue of information. Not knowing how to start and missing out on some really important tips like what Facebook groups to join, which casting websites are worth paying for, etc. can really slow down your journey. Another challenge I see is that particularly actors out of high school don't have an appreciation of the discipline you need to be an actor. Developing your own process, while remaining flexible to something new,
but also having something fixed you can come back to is critical.
Samay: During your time with Shakespeare in Action, you were tasked with creating an Equity Strategy to implement in numerous productions. What was this experience like? Can you share some takeaways of how inequality manifests in the acting industry?
Suchiththa: Inequity is built into pretty much every aspect of the industry. You see it right now with both the writers and actors striking in the USA regarding TV and Film payouts. With SIA, we worked on the actors journey from the time the casting call goes out to when all post- production elements are complete. One thing I'll take away from this is: when I got on board with this project (as part of a team, I didn't do this solo) I wanted to change the whole industry.
However, something that became increasingly more apparent to me is that we needed to focus on our organisation's shortcomings before we try to fix the whole world. One of the ways thats
particularly insidious is during the audition process, where sides are given with less than a week's notice with shocking regularity. That's not a great way to ensure great auditions, and it doesn't give actors the opportunity to do their best work.
Samay: You’ve spoken in public about how you’ve recently come to acquire a newfound task for not only physical theater but also multi-sensory theater. What does this entail, and what inspired this development?
Suchiththa: In 2019 I worked on a physical theatre adaption of The Tempest which was a
meeting of Deaf and hearing artists working together. As a child who was told he used his hands too much to communicate, this was perfect, and awoke in me a desire to tell stories that brought different artists together to tell stories through physical language. The Multi-sensory aspect was also present in the same production. Deaf audience members and actors alike got to experience every sound effect through vibration inducers placed in the audience and on stage. All of these experiences make me want to bring in artists from various disciplines and experiences to create art together!
Samay: Based on your expertise, what would you provide as a piece of advice to anyone lookingto break into the acting industry?
Suchiththa: Know what you're trying to achieve, be willing to have your mind changed about that, don't compromise on your own morals and make a budget! Yes, that's 4 pieces of advice, but its all connected, promise.