Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

I spent a little over an hour in the Beijing airport, where I had just enough time to visit the washroom (one sign inside the stall said ‘Please lock for your convenience’, which made me laugh) and the duty free shop, where I bought some Chinese pineapple biscuits for Royce, my friend, host, and gracious tour guide, who would be meeting me at the next airport. I bought them specifically because once in conversation I mentioned to him that I had had this obsession with pineapples (don’t ask) when I was in high school, and he told me that there existed (I kid you not) a pineapple theme park in Japan. I told him it was cruel to tease me with such fantastic tales, but then he showed me photographs he had taken on a previous visit (oh, the pineapple greeting gate…!), and even offered to take me there himself, and, at that moment, I think I might have swooned.

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I’m visiting Japan for 9 days to visit a friend of mine who is studying Noh Theatre there for a month. We’ll be staying in Tokyo and also visiting an island in Okinawa. Here are some of my stories…

 I boarded the first plane and walked straight to the back toward my selected window seat. There was a middle-aged Chinese man sitting in the spot next to mine, and when he saw me he smiled and said “I’ve been waiting for you!”

Once I settled myself in, we talked about our respective flights, and he told me he was traveling from New York, where he has lived for the past 30 years, to China for business. Why was he traveling through London, rather than crossing over the Pacific?

He had originally booked a flight to London for a holiday with his wife and two boys, but then he suddenly had to go to China for a business trip, which cut into the holiday. When he tried to alter the flight, the airline told him it would cost over $2000 US, so he found it cheaper to simply book a round-trip flight from London to China and back again. But this meant, for him, being in air transit for over 24 hours. What fun!

Despite his intense schedule, he seemed well-rested and cheery and we embarked, as strangers sometimes do, into polite topics of conversation such as the history slavery, the legal limits of abortion, same-sex marriage, matriarchal societies, the decline of the family unit, and human rights versus cultural traditions. It was comforting to realise that we shared a number of fundamental values, though we had come to them from very different perspectives and experiences.

I also asked him if he was a spy – since he seemed to do an awful lot of traveling for work – and he told me, no, he was an IT consultant. Growing up in communist China, a liberal arts degree wasn’t exactly encouraged, so he pursued the sciences instead. Though, he said, he’d be interested in seeing my show about Sappho when it plays in New York in a couple of months (…shameless plug).

I made the mistake of going out drinking the night before this flight, so I’ll admit I’m not exactly in the best shape to be enjoying a cramped 9 hour journey with a stopover in Beijing, and then another flight to my final destination. But I’m keeping my mind focused on my arrival in Tokyo, on devouring epic quantities of sushi, on exploring markets and temples and fashion districts, on cherry blossom season, on lush islands surrounded by ocean waves and whales, on on on, and and and…

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Win or Die Poster

“In the end I distilled everything to one wonderfully simple principle: win or die” (Dangerous Liaisons).

Inspired by the Marquis de Meurteil’s infamous creed, ‘Win or Die: a woman’s odyssey through theatre’ presents some of the sharpest and boldest female characters in dramatic history.

From Shakespeare to Mamet, this showcase observes women who employ sexuality as strategy in an all-consuming game of chess with consequences.

Featuring Kate Milner Evans, Sevda Levent, and Rus Kallan.
Directed by Jessica Ruano.

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★★★★ The Public Reviews   ★★★★ Everything Theatre
★★★★ Plays to See   ★★★★ Views from the gods
“A unique theatrical experience” WhatsOnStage
“Entertaining and highly creative” Bargain Theatreland
“Bizarrely, it works” DIVA Magazine


AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare

The Rose, Bankside
56 Park Street, SE1
(near London Bridge Station)

1st to 26th October, 2013
Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Sunday 13th & 20th at 3.00pm

Featuring: Declan Cooke, Bonny Davis, Tom Hartill, Matthew Howell, Suzanne Marie, Stacy Sobieski, and Andrew Venning

Director : Jessica Ruano
Designer : Ana Ines Jabares
Lighting Designer : Sarah Crocker
Sound Designer : Luca Romagnoli
Props Designer : Esther Hills
Production Manager : Oliver Michell
Stage Manager: Jeryn Daly

Advance tickets: wegottickets.com £12 / £10 

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The Rose, Bankside presents a new production of As You Like It, by William Shakespeare, directed by Jessica Ruano (jessicaruano.com).

‘men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love’


When Rosalind and Orlando are forced to flee the court, they believe they will find sanctuary in the Forest of Arden.

But security is deceiving with the court citizens on constant watch, and their game of love plays out like a battle for survival.

Seeking: several male and female adult actors of all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities

Auditions: Monday, August 26th, 11am to 5pm at The Rose, Bankside

Rehearsals: September 1st to October 1st (some daytimes and Sundays) near London Bridge

Performances: October 1-26, Tuesday to Saturday evenings 7:30pm & two Sunday matinees 3pm at The Rose, Bankside

Payment: everyone involved in the production receives a share of the profits

To book an audition, please email ruano.jessica[at]gmail.com with your email address and telephone number, preferred audition time, and confirmation that you are available for the aforementioned rehearsal and performance dates.

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REVIEW: Am I Not, by Em Kwissa

Em KwissaAfter three straight days of reading, I’ve finally finished Em Kwissa‘s masterpiece of a novel-memoir. It is a masterpiece, and I don’t use the term lightly. It is by far the most moving piece of literature and one of the best-written contemporary works I have ever encountered.

It is available for download on her website in the ‘Media’ section.

The controversy surrounding the publication of her book (see Lulu.com) is only an added bonus, one that I hope will help her reach a much wider audience in the long run. The book is a glorious triumph in itself, and frankly, needs no further context.

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Sappho on the streets

Originally posted on http://sappho9fragments.com

For the past several days, I have been doing this:

Jessica 2

(Photo credit: David Robertson)

Right in the middle of the Royal Mile, I spell out the word ‘Sappho’ or the word ‘Lesbian’ with the rope we use in the show. And then I park myself behind the word and hold up flyers for the show. When people pass by, many of them reading the word, I smile at them gleefully. If they smile back, I offer them a flyer.

It is most frequently children who read aloud the word, or ask their parents to read it aloud for them. If someone says the word quite loudly, I call back ‘Yay!’ and pump my fist in the air. Sometimes people sit with me and we have a conversation: I tell them that the show is about Sappho, the first love poet, who lived in Ancient Greece on the island of Lesbos (hence Lesbian with a capital ‘L’, as, strictly speaking, Sappho was probably bisexual – not that they ever bothered with those labels). I tell them the show is an ‘acrobatic love story’ and share photos with them.

One man told me he had been to Lesbos and told me I had to visit. Two women holding hands came up to me and told me I had made their day, which, in turn, made my day. Tourists often take photos of me without asking, but I don’t mind; I volunteer to pose for them and encourage them to post their photos on Facebook.

I’m choosing this approach to promoting the show, because I’m finding that people are quickly becoming disillusioned by the Fringe artists who push flyers in their faces, quoting star ratings and reviews, and being generally loud and overwhelming. I’m attempting the quieter method because, this way, people come to me.

Other Fringe artists ask me why I bothered to promote the show so far in advance, since it opens a week into the festival and only plays for three days. I reply that, partly, we haven’t received much media coverage for this run of the show (nobody really wants to cover/review a show that is only playing in Edinburgh for three days, when most shows are playing for a month), so I’m doing what I can to get audiences.

But it’s more than that: for me, this rope thing has become a performance in itself. I engage with people directly: I make eye contact, I smile, I challenge them in my own subtle way. When they stand in front of the word ‘Lesbian’ and raise their eyebrows, I say ‘How’s my handwriting?’ as though my calligraphy skills would be at the forefront of their thoughts.

Even though I don’t identify as a ‘lesbian’ (I’m a ‘date whoever I want’ ‘who needs labels’ kinda girl), I happily play the role for the sake of publicity – especially because I don’t look like a stereotypical lesbian, so that in itself may challenge people’s expectations and make them question their assumptions about queer people. ‘Is she actually gay…?’ they might wonder. Does it matter?

Whether or not these passer-bys decide to see the show, I like to think I’m getting the words ‘Sappho’ and ‘Lesbian’ into their heads, normalizing the words, letting them stand on their own without making any real statement about them. They’re just there. There they are. They exist, and they become part of our vocabulary, if only for a moment.

I wouldn’t be able to do this in Russia. I wouldn’t be able to do this in most countries in the world. But here, I feel safe. I don’t feel threatened or ostracized or uncomfortable. I haven’t experienced even one dirty look about my choice of words. People sometimes laugh or roll their eyes at me, but I just smile back, kindly yet defiantly. And I wouldn’t have this privilege everywhere.

I am very lucky. We are all very lucky.

Sappho…in 9 fragments plays Thursday, August 8th, Friday, August 9th, and Saturday, August 10th at theSpace Venue 45 on Jeffrey Street. For more information and advance tickets: https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/sappho-in-9-fragments

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Click on poster image for more details! 

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Amazing news!

Sappho…in 9 fragments has been awarded Best in Fest and Best Design at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. We are positively glowing.

ALSO, due to unprecedented sold-out performances, we have decided to extend our stay in Ottawa and play for THREE MORE SHOWS at the Arts Court Library on July 4th, 5th, and 6th at 8pm. If you haven’t yet seen the show or would like to see it again (and bring friends!), please visit Eventbrite to buy advance tickets.

Artist-sculptor Tamaya Garner attended our production of Sappho…in 9 fragments three times and has created beautiful paintings inspired by the show. Her artwork will be on display – and available for purchase – at every performance.


Thank you, Ottawa, for all your incredible support so far, and we look forward to seeing you this week xx

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