QDF: Can you talk about how identity as it relates to the characters in crisis?
Joy Ross-Jones: As a Venezuelan-Canadian, I’ve always felt as split sense of cultural identity. I left Venezuela at 17 and have made my life here in Montreal. The move strengthened my understanding of myself as a Canadian, but strangely, also brought me closer to my Latin American roots. Being away from Venezuela during this phenomenally difficult time in the country’s history has made me question where I fit into it. How can I lend a hand and ‘march’?
Each of the Elsewhere characters represents an archetype. The Gringa (North American), Policia (cop), Reina de Belleza (beauty queen), Guerrero (warrior/protester), Indigente (homeless man), and Abuela (grandmother), all negotiate their identities in light of the new stakes they are forced to live from day to day. Each of them emerged out of me during improvisation sessions. As the crisis in Venezuela becomes increasingly unbearable, each character has been forced to respond and either adapt, or not. Feeling each character shift within me has been fascinating; some hold on with tooth and nail to life before, and others, negotiate their sense of self and hustle to facilitate their survival in this country in decline. The two year creation process of Elsewhere, culminating in the upcoming production by Odd Stumble and Imago Theatre, has been a heart-wrenching, overwhelming, and totally artistically enriching journey.
QDF: There is also a great deal of personal connections to real life-identity. How do you leave personal life on stage so the two don’t bleed together?
JRJ: It’s really hard. I often feel overwhelmed by emotion, and increasingly so as we approach opening night. As the days count down to the production, the political climate in Venezuela becomes more complex and dire than I ever thought it could. I think of my family in Venezuela often, and hope with all my might that they stay safe. Elsewhere is for them.
QDF: As you’ve mentioned, location and the crisis in Venezuela is critical when it comes to the story, how does the title Elsewhere relate?
Cristina Cugliandro: The title speaks to our thinking that when something is happening in another part of the world it does not concern us or that we are helpless. It also takes into consideration the fact that many have to leave their homes to find a place elsewhere that is safe and the consequences of that displacement.
QDF: Elsewhere urges audiences in Canada to consider the crisis in Venezuela. What do you hope audience members take away from the production?
CC: As Canadians, we can feel comfortable in our country and believe that the many crisis we hear about would never happen on our turf. But, throughout history, we have witnessed many well off countries dissolve under circumstances due to a certain government’s policies, uneducated political decisions, and mismanagement of the economy. As a country whose trading often revolves around our natural resource of the tar sands, we must be careful and weary of the economic choices we make in order to avoid a situation such as we are seeing in Venezuela. We must learn from history instead of repeating it.
Elsewhere can be seen at Centaur Theatre from January 24-27, 2019 at Centaur Theatre. Tickets are available here!
Thank you to Joy Ross-Jones (co-creator) and Cristina Cugliandro (Artistic Director of Odd Stumble) who are also Associate Artists at Imago Theatre for taking the time to speak with us about Elsewhere.