Interview: Joy Ross-Jones gives a glimpse of the “Elsewhere”

Venezuelan-Canadian artist talks her award-winning play on her country's crisis



JOY ROSS-JONES is the co-creator and performer of Elsewhere, the 2017 award-winning play by Odd Stumble now being presented in association with Imago Theatre for a short, 5-show run at the Centaur from January 24th to 27th, 2019.

Montreal Theatre Hub’s Camila Fitzgibbon speaks to the Venezuelan-Canadian artist, who is also an Associate Artist with Imago Theatre as Co-Founder and Program Director of its young women’s mentorship program, ARTISTA, in anticipation of the revamped production. Read our in-depth piece below.


It’s all in the international news headlines: protests in the streets, police repression, hyperinflation, long lines at empty-shelved grocery stores, shortages in medical supplies, deadly power cuts, and massive emigration. “Latin America’s richest country” has become the “most dangerous country in the world”. But, to what extent has our attention taken us from the privileges of our peaceful safety to the devastating preoccupations of the Elsewhere?

Exactly one week ago on January 10th, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second six-year term, showing little promise of any near end to the country’s profound political, economic, and human crisis in his “socialist” government’s fresh surge of power.

And, exactly one week from today, the urgent story finds new ground in Montreal with a thought-provoking and heart-rending piece of theatre that seeks to incite awareness, conversation, and action.


Ronaldo Schemidt, Venezuela Crisis, Winner of the World Press Photo of the Year 2018

Elsewhere is the original one-person play co-created by Joy Ross-Jones and Cristina Cugliandro that uses mask and storytelling to tell the story of six people’s lives – their hope, resilience, resistance and survival – amidst the chaos of the current crisis that has befallen Venezuela.

Having first premiered at the 2017 Montreal St. Ambroise Fringe Festival, where it was nominated for the Frankie Creativity Award, received an Honourable Mention for Best Production, and won the Segal Centre for Performing Arts Award for Most Promising English Language Company, it now receives quick, new breath before setting off to tour theatres, festivals, and community centres across Canada in the 2019-2020 season.

For theatregoers revisiting the refurbished work, expect dramatic changes in design elements – particularly the set – and an updated script to reflect the escalated happenings south of the border.

For those coming into the show for the first time, prepare to be struck by its artistry, intimacy, and relevancy.

Read here our contributor Madison Jolliffe’s review of the world premiere of ‘Elsewhere’ at the 2017 Montreal Fringe Festival.


Joy Ross-Jones (Image courtesy of Odd Stumble)

Joy Ross-Jones plays six masked characters in Elsewhere: “A Grandmother reflects on her past, a Beauty Queen wonders how to feed her children, a Cop questions the violence around him, a Homeless Man begs God for food, a Teenager risks his life to join the fight for freedom and a Venezuelan-Canadian woman looks on from afar, struggling with what is happening in a country she calls home.”


Corruption, hunger, disease, and violent death are the seemingly impenetrable realities of the distant Elsewhere that Venezuelan-Canadian artist Joy-Ross Jones hopes to bring widespread awareness to with her critically and publicly acclaimed creation.

Elsewhere offers glimpse into a world that is very different from the world that we are living in Canada,” the writer-performer begins. “We can go about our days here and be completely distracted by our lives, which are comparatively safe and good.”

We tie in the play’s fundamental question of “why is a crisis never a crisis when it is elsewhere?”

She elucidates: “the word ‘crisis’ implies that there’s some sort of destruction, deterioration and death happening, but you don’t feel it when you’re in a safe place – that’s really where the title of the piece comes from. But then it works from the other side of things: if you’re in that country, that safe space also feels very far and that, to you, is the elusive Elsewhere. Elsewhere, then, might be the place you’re going to escape.”

Joy is an immigrant herself, having landed in Montreal in 2006 to pursue her university studies in theatre at McGill and Concordia.

And, since the crisis exploded in 2013, nearly 3 million Venezuelans have followed suit to flee bedlam.

Elsewhere is her personal response to the turmoil of her home country – which she now heartbreakingly watches from afar.

“This play was born out of my need to share what was happening in Venezuela with the world. On the other hand, it has also given me an emotional outlet and a platform to express my frustrations.”


Joy Ross-Jones (Image courtesy of Imago Theatre)

Odd Stumble – a politically engaged theatre collective that produces new works and initiates projects that respond to current events – here receives official patronage from Imago Theatre, an initiative connected to the latter’s ongoing mandate to mentor emerging female artists by fostering stories about “unstoppable women”. (Ross-Jones particularly acknowledges the support of Micheline Chevrier and Cristina Cugliandro in the success of this production.)

Known as a catalyst for conversation, Imago now hopes to prompt new discourse among Canadians on the Venezuelan affairs. To that effect, talkbacks with guest speakers are being held after every performance.

“The talkbacks are an important place to contextualize what is being told in a more concrete way,” explains Ross-Jones, “and it gives people – Venezuelans, more intimately, of course, but also people from other countries who are experiencing similar conflict – a safe, public space to vent and share their pain.”

Partake in the vital dialogue happening for four days only in Montreal this January before it departs on its national tour.

Note that, in Imago Theatre’s evolved commitment to accessibility, Pay-What-You-Decide tickets will be made available at the door. For more information about Imago’s PWYD policy, click here. 



An Odd Stumble production presented in association with Imago Theatre and developed in collaboration with Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal

Co-created, Written and Performed by: Joy Ross-Jones
Co-created, Dramaturgy and Directed by: Cristina Cugliandro
Set and Costume Design: Liv Wright
Lighting Design: Amber Hood
Sound Design: Zachari Smith, Joel Gorrie, and René Orea
Stage Management: Heather Ellen Strain
Outside Eye: Micheline Chevrier
Mask Work Consultant: Myrna Wyatt Selkirk
Mask Design: Mathieu René
Poster design: Marisa Velazquez-Rivas

Performances
Thursday, January 24 at 7:30pm
Friday, January 25 at 7:30pm
Saturday, January 26 at 3:00pm and 7:30pm
Sunday, January 27 at 3:00pm

Venue
Centaur Theatre
453 St. François-Xavier

Tickets
Regular Tickets: $20
For groups of 10 or more: $15
(Call Imago Theatre at 514-274-3222 for group reservations)

Pay-What-You-Decide tickets available at the door.
To learn more about Imago’s Pay-What-You-Decide policy, click here. 
Tickets and reserved seating are not guaranteed with Pay-What-You-Decide.

Box Office
Tickets on sale online at www.imagotheatre.ca
Centaur Box Office: 514-288-3161

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