Archive for the ‘Ottawa’ Category

Today my friend and colleague Kat Fournier and I launched the very first episode of Just Another Gala: Your Ottawa Theatre Podcast. Ottawa’s theatre scene has exploded in the last few years, and we feel that some thorough on-air discussion is in order. Join us!

We’re also on Facebook and Twitter. Please like and share widely.

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Sappho Blog 1015 x  276

Dear everyone,

Since moving to London over a year and a half ago, I managed to fall in with some wonderful theatre artists and ended up directing my first professional show titled ‘Sappho …in 9 fragments’. Since the show did quite well (check the reviews), I’ve decided to take it to Canada on tour.

Interested in getting involved? There are several options:



‘Sappho’ is playing in Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal this June 2013. And you’ll love it, I promise. It’s got poetry (from Ancient Greece’s best love poet), storytelling, aerial choreography, ropes and scaffolding, phenomenal acting, killer soundtrack, ‘take your breath away’ visual moments, and the sexiest lesbian love story you’ll ever encounter. Seriously, bring the kids.

Toronto: June 14 & 15

Ottawa: June 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 29

Montreal: June 27 & 28

For full tour information and to purchase advance tickets, please follow this link.



If you can’t make it to the performance, but you think your friends will love it, feel free to connect them with us via. social media.

Website/Blog: http://sappho9fragments.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/460578744012696/

Twitter: @sappho9fragment

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UN2E8j5UfiE



Truth is, we need some money. We’re taking this show across the ocean from London to Ottawa, and plane tickets are expensive, yo. And you know how much I love handing out flyers, so we should probably print a few of those. Plus venue rental costs and hiring a fancy limo to drive around the lead actress… uh, forget that last bit.

All in all, we’re looking at spending just over $5000.00. Which is not bad for an international show. So if you’re willing and able to chip in a few, you know I would be forever grateful. And I’ll happily thank you publicly.

Donating is super easy: just visit the Jer’s Vision page (this charity is wonderful enough to be supporting and presenting our Canadian tour), click on ‘DONATE NOW’ and select ‘Arts: Sappho in Canada’ as the recipient.

Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions.

The show opens in just over two months! In the meantime, we’re making plans to remount the show in London (possibly in one of Shakespeare’s former theatres…) and present the play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. So much to look forward to.

I spent my last couple of years in university studying and shadowing Canadian theatre companies that toured their work in festivals nationally and internationally. I admired their perseverance and their belief that theatre work could have a life beyond its original presentation, even ten to fifteen years into the future. And I would love for ‘Sappho’ to enjoy a similarly lengthy existence. Here’s hoping!

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My lovely and brilliant friend Julie Laurin filmed this. It is so strange watching yourself, and noticing the lines in your face, and the way your bottom eyelid flickers, and how much you bite your lip. Also, I think my dress is very pretty.

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“The best theatrical experience I’ve had since New York 2011 and the Book of Mormon”  MAUREEN LIPMAN


sap thinEXEUNT MAGAZINE ★★★★

“Uncommonly exhilarating”

“Jessica Ruano’s direction focuses so keenly on the physical, that it’s as much a piece of choreography as a text; I believe Sappho, a great proponent of both the direct and the sensual in poetry, would unreservedly approve. No part of the space is not explored, no shape of the body not attempted.”

“Victoria Grove, who is surely some kind of professional enchantress, with the husky voice of a Dench or a Bacall and the poise of a young Vanessa Redgrave. Her characterisation of Sappho is simultaneously haughty and earthy; imagine Penelope Keith’s voice in Felicity Kendal’s body.”


“Sappho… in 9 fragments is written, directed and executed with passion”


“Stunningly athletic and entirely sensuous… fluidly directed”


“a spectacular visual and physical piece”

“a gracious dance between an improvised energy and choreographed poignancy”

“Victoria Grove is fantastic, she is magnetic and mysterious, dominating…”

“like a fireworks display that you are glued to and every jet of sparkling light explodes with a wonderful climax”


“What a performer!” … “A bravura display of technique and emotion”

“Remarkable balances and acrobatic gyrations”

“Victoria Grove makes this aerial choreography seem second nature”


“Don’t miss this unique production!”

“highly sensual and intelligent piece… charged with eroticism”

“inspired direction” “outstanding performance”


“Both intellectually stimulating and intensely compelling”


“Intimidatingly intimate … a totally mesmerising production”


“Victoria Grove is magnetic and compelling… A unique production and a chance to catch an impressively talented actress at close quarters.”


“brilliantly staged” “utterly riveting performance”


“bewitching Victoria Grove” … “strong direction by Jessica Ruano”


“Spellbinding… This dramatic meditation on identity, filtered through a classicists appreciation of the great Sappho, is a triumph for everyone involved.”


“The show won a standing ovation from me, the fourth in 25 years…yes, it’s that f*cking good!”


SAPPHO …in 9 fragments by Jane Montgomery Griffiths. Directed by Jessica Ruano and featuring the Victoria Grove as Sappho/Atthis, this production is designed by Ana Ines Jabares with lighting by Sarah Crocker and sound by Luca Romagnoli. 

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Theatre people at SubDevision. Photo credit: Julie Laurin

Following a two-week visit to Ottawa, I feel rejuvenated and inspired. Man, I needed that. I needed to see my childhood home in the spring time. I needed to see my friends busy at work and play. I needed to perform poetry in the park. I needed to attend a theatre carnival and be welcomed by the majority of the people in the room. I needed to climb my favourite tree and bike along the canal and visit the farmers’ market and try contact improv and get drunk with my high school buddies and have lunch on a patio in the market and go salsa dancing and run into people in the street.

Having seen plenty of incredible theatre in London, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer quality of the work at SubDevision and The Extremely Short Play Festival. And finally we have an Ottawa theatre brochure!

Having experienced bouts of anxiety and depression in recent years, I was relieved to find myself capable of relaxing, enjoying simple pleasures, living in the moment. Spending time with a three year old and his wonderful caregiver (i.e. one of my favourite people in the whole world) can really help with that.

Having suffered through severe heartbreak recently, I was ecstatic to realize that I still have the capacity to fall for someone in less than twenty-four hours. Thank you, Rosemary; you inspire.

Why don’t I just come back? Well, I have many reasons – but one of them is, simply, that I need to be away for a while. Moving across the ocean is the riskiest thing I have ever done, and I question myself  constantly for having left behind everything I know and love. Simply existing here in London is a challenge. Whereas in Ottawa, jobs were offered to me on a silver press kit and friends were never far away, here I have to fight for everything I want. If I don’t want to spend time alone and lonely, I have to make an effort to connect with people, to make plans on my own initiative, to force myself to get out of bed in the morning and be productive. I’m finding this very difficult, but I’m not going to give up yet.

This summer I have a number of activities planned: among some of the more exciting, I’m moving into a new flat that will require minor renovations and decorating; I’m planning a European tour for my company Second Skin Theatre; and I’m planning to get more involved with my Walthamstow neighbourhood – anything from volunteering, to offering workshops, to attending more local events. Running London’s West End might be a more ambitious aim, but I’m the kind of person that likes to immerse myself in a tight-knit community; the goal of ‘making a difference’ is that much more attainable. And, hey, maybe I’ll attempt to take over the big city next year.

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Not only is there a fabulous new Ottawa arts blogger in town, Matias of ‘Ottawa Showbox’ also gave me a flattering review for my impromptu poetry performance at new series ‘4in1’ Ottawa Park Acoustic Sessions, hosted by photographer/music lover Ming Wu. Perfect end to a magical two weeks in Canada’s capital.


Jessica Ruano gave me a second, more forceful dose of spoken word. She was the designated ‘time killer’ since Del Bel and Lisa Bozikovic had to run for sound check. Wow. Jessica touched on themes I think we all experience at different points in our lives – particularly powerlessness, but also strength to recover from our times of weakness. She kicked ass.

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A Clown Wedding at the Eiffel Tower

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I remember being sixteen and receiving my report card for theatre class and noticing that my average was a little lower than I had expected. Scanning my grades for each assignment, I realized with abject horror that I – a straight-A student – had received a 60% for my acting work in the ‘director’s scene.’ You see, at my high school, every grade 11 theatre student had to act in a scene directed (and marked) by a grade 12 theatre student, presumably trying to give these students agency in their work.

Frustrated and a little hurt, I approached my teacher who agreed to meet with me at lunch hour to discuss my grades. We met in the drama office, and she shared with me the notes written by the student director regarding my work. She listed off a handful of negative things he had said about my acting (perhaps an accurate assessment; I never claimed to be the world’s greatest actress), including, and this is the clincher, that throughout rehearsal I kept ‘showing off my breasts’. Direct quote.

This shattered me. Because although I immediately and rightly denied the accusation, I began to wonder from where it had come. I thought back to rehearsals: what was I wearing, how was I behaving, what had I said to him. Maybe I had been wearing clothes that could have been considered revealing – but then, most of the time, we were wearing the costumes that he had given us. And I thought about how some of the blocking required demonstrative gestures, leaning forward facing the audience, so maybe that was it. And I remembered a few times after rehearsal when the other actor had left, that he and I chatted for a while, perhaps even flirted, though nothing happened.

‘Tell you what,’ said the teacher. ‘I’ll increase your grade to a 75%, and then we can forget about this, alright?’

I agreed. And suddenly the notes disappeared and it was as if it had never happened. Although, I’m pretty sure that from that point on, the grade 12 directors were no longer allowed to assign grades to their actors.

This happened almost ten years ago, and for some reason I remembered it this morning and I haven’t been able to put it out of my head. Sometimes people ask me why I wear jackets and waistcoats: ‘You have such a nice body. Why cover it up?’ Sometimes people ask me if I’ve been raped: ‘Define rape’ is my usual answer.

I’m angry. And I’m not even particularly angry at the pathetic adolescent boy who had some small effect on my grades: he’s a fucking moron, and that’s his problem, and I never have to deal with him again. I am angry at that teacher who let it happen and was too cowardly to stand up for me when she could have. And I’m angry at myself for not making a bigger fuss at the time. Because TEN YEARS LATER thinking about this incident completely ruined my morning. And I deserve better.

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daily yoga and exercise, practice french and spanish, improve posture, seek out and create directing opportunities, become an exemplary employee, read more novels and poetry books, engage in healthy relationships with good people, distance myself from not-so-good people, wake up early, see lots of theatre, make my own videos, learn to play Mozart arias on the flute, smile, write blog entries and short stories and poems and love letters more frequently, play the tourist in my own city, join more theatre websites, play show tunes and upbeat music in the morning, always wear a helmet while riding my bicycle, volunteer with children in schools, visit other cities in Europe, cook healthy and more diverse meals for myself, trust myself

earlier today I wrote a list of positive things that happened this year

there were 30 things on that list, and it didn’t take me very long to think of them, and that’s saying something!

I may come away with better memories than I expected

photo by pkohler

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Regent's Park

I went in search of a theatre and found a park instead.

There’s nothing original about finding solace in nature. In fact, I’d always been annoyed at Canadian poets for doing so: yes, yes, trees and rivers are beautiful, but why should I have to read about them endlessly for my Canadian literature classes? Archibald Lampman, I may have visited your grave in the Beechwood cemetery, but we were never close: I remember complaining about the subtle mosaic you supposedly suggested in your sonnet; I remember losing points on my midterm because I didn’t recognize your obscure references.

And yet I thought of you while wandering through the Walthamstow marshes. I thought of you in Regent’s Park and Hyde Park and St. James’, amid the tourists and the dog walkers and the photographers and the families of four. Maybe you could have guided me down their paths and pointed out the string of metaphors that I somehow missed while reading your poetry. My response to nature is so naive, so common, so inhale deeply and exhale soundly, so look up at the clouds and find shapes between the blinking flecks of sun.

I always seem to find myself in a park when I have somewhere else to be. Keep checking my watch, making sure I have enough time to find the tube, catch the tube elsewhere, in time for work or a meeting. And this could be easily avoided: I spend my mornings moving slowly, staring at computer screens, perhaps enacting a lazy yoga routine, setting aside moments for a quick breakfast, reading a few pages of that novel I intend to finish. And I tell myself often, today I will go out early, because I always feel better when I go out, and I will give myself lots of time. Because I never feel like there’s enough time.

I think about time the way some people think about money. Obsessively. I used to be the most punctual person I know. But since the ever-increasing popularity of mobile phones (text: be there in 5 mins) and my relative proximity to places of interest (quick bike ride to the university means no need to worry about bus schedules), being exactly on time seems to have become a secondary consideration. Which doesn’t mean I don’t feel horribly guilty every time I’m a few minutes late, or have to rearrange plans, or cancel them altogether. But this isn’t even about that.

The problem, I think, is having unassigned time. While I was writing my thesis, I would wake up in the morning recognizing that I had twelve hours ahead of me to ‘get work done’. For some, that may be an inspiring realization; for me, it was daunting. Sometimes I organize my day thusly: 1 hour read, 1 hour write, 2 hours read, 2 hours write, 1 hour lunch, 1 hour read, 1 hour write… until the end of time. During high school and my undergrad, the time specifications were a little more, well, specific. I could divide up my time into subjects, into projects, into articles that needed to be annotated for the next morning. There were deadlines, and I found those very helpful.

(On a related note, I’ve heard of high schools implementing ‘due dates’ and ‘dead dates’, the former is the date at which the assignment should be handed in, and the latter is the point at which you can start losing marks for handing in your assignment at a later date. Thank you, education system, for confusing your pupils and helping them to develop terrible habits.)

Now, if I waste several hours watching sitcom episodes on the internet, no one will know but me. If I’m not spending every spare moment educating myself, reading, writing, exercising, practicing the flute, learning to cook, composing thank you cards, bettering the world in small but meaningful ways, who will take note except me? I need a reason for rising, I wrote once. I feel like I’m going off topic again. What was it I wanted to say?

Everyone has different ways of relaxing. My father listens to classical music and reads books; sometimes he paints. My mother quilts and works on puzzles with 1000 pieces; devours novels in bed. Some of my friends play video games or watch television. Others take naps. Still others go for a jog, go swimming, meditate, write a poem, smoke a cigarette (or what have you), pluck strings on a guitar methodically. Some do nothing at all (whatever that means).

Sometimes I go for walks in parks. I daydream about locking eyes with someone, smiling, starting an awkward conversation, falling in love. I imagine walking with someone else, not alone. I think about what else I could be doing, wondering if I should check my phone, go back home and check for messages. I compose status updates in my head that I will replicate when I return to a computer: Enjoyed walking in the park today. Rested in the branches of a beautiful tree. So peaceful. While content-wise this is an accurate account of my afternoon, my tranquil satisfied tone is a tad misleading. And yet, I will say this: that even though my scattered thoughts have a tendency to run awry like confused adolescents, thereby unable to prevent my mind from buzzing without respite, once in a while a cobblestone pathway that leads through a bushel of trees to a hidden brook arrests my breath for a single significant moment. And that, in itself, is enough.

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