Harry Nelken (Joe), Elena Anciro (Stef), Josh Ranville (KoKo), Spenser Payne (Val) and Dorothy Carroll (Molly) are the main characters who all struggle with mental health issues.
Harry Nelken as Joe and Elena Anciro as Karen in Breaking Through
Richie Diggs (Absame) and Elena Anciro (Stef) form a connection of support in Breaking Through. Photos by Janet Shum
Mental health takes the stage
Sarasvàti Productions’ play Breaking Through is the culmination of over two years of work as part of a larger initiative, Mental Health is Everyone’s Health, which saw hundreds of people share their experiences. Mandated to use theatre for social change, Sarasvàti Productions created a new model for community-based theatre creation. This particular project was launched in partnership with Artists in Healthcare Manitoba, Red Threads Playback Theatre, and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre. Artists conducted workshop sessions, forums and interviews, hearing from close to 400 individuals. With 25 per cent of Manitobans receiving medical treatment for a mental illness, mental health issues touch everyone, and there was no shortage of people willing to share their experiences.
Artistic Director Hope McIntyre and co-writer Cairn Moore compiled real stories for Breaking Through. The draft script received a stage reading in May 2016 and was also presented to various organizations for feedback. With more than 150 written responses, the script has gone through extensive rewrites in the past year and is now ready for a full professional production.
Breaking Through follows five characters, each with their own experience of mental health and the systems that surround it. KoKo is a two-spirited aboriginal youth who has bounced from foster home to group home. Is her depression a mental illness or the result of a difficult life? Molly is trying to manage as a single mother with bi-polar disorder. Stef’s anxiety makes it hard to cope, particularly when feeling judged by the world around her. Val’s eating disorder is the result of our contemporary desire to live the perfect life, but now that she has a reality TV show can she keep it a secret? And Joe is the seasoned veteran of the system, living with schizophrenia meant being in and out of institutions for 50 years.
Veteran Winnipeg theatre artist Kevin Klassen will direct the production. The cast members are all locals well-known in the Winnipeg theatre scene – Elena Anciro, Dora Carroll, Richie Diggs, Marsha Knight, Harry Nelken, Spenser Payne and Joshua Ranville.
Sarasvàti Productions’ world premiere Breaking Through will run from May 23 to May 28 at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film, 400 Colony Street, at the University of Winnipeg. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students/seniors. To purchase tickets and to see show times, please visit www.sarasvati.ca.
About Sarasvàti Productions: Sarasvàti Dramatic Theatre Productions and Repertory Inc. (founded in Winnipeg in 2000) seeks to inspire artists and audiences through the use of theatre and to provide a place where artists can develop, showcase their skills and celebrate their creativity.