5 Fringe Questions with JESSICA RUANO

Ottawa gal Jessica Ruano wears a lot of hats, and she looks good in all of them.   She’s been a writer, publicist, reviewer, spoken-word poet and more, and lately has been living it up in London (the foggy one, not the Canadian one) as a director and producer.  She directed SAPPHO…IN 9 FRAGMENTS there to great acclaim, and now she’s bringing the show back to us lucky folk at the Ottawa Fringe!

Jessica Ruano pic by Julie Laurin
Jessica Ruano pic by Julie Laurin

  – How did you first get involved with this production?

I got involved with this production by choosing to produce and direct it. I found the script in a bookshop in London and wrote to the playwright Jane Montgomery Griffiths directly. She has been super supportive and even sent us flowers on opening night.

    – Why is the story of Sappho still important today?

Which story? There are so many of them! As you will see in our production, one of the most notable things about Sappho is how little we know about her; therefore the stories we hear are often tweaked, exaggerated, or just plain untrue. But I think Sappho’s work is still important today because it addresses meaningful relationships between people, which is always relevant and interesting and thought-provoking. She was the first poet to talk about something other than war and politics in her work, and she has certainly inspired many of my love poems!

    – When did you first meet star Victoria Grove?

One night I was lying down in the Walthamstow marshes, staring up at the starry sky, and there she was…

Victoria played the lead in a gorgeous play called La Chunga, by Mario Vargas Llosa. I was the assistant director on the show: my first theatre gig in London. As part of the job, I had to give her and another actress instructions on how to seduce each other. My tough luck, eh?

– How did the impressive design for the show come about?

Surprisingly completely organically. The script itself has no stage directions or explicit design suggestions, and I decided to direct the play without an entirely clear concept of what I was going to do with it. Victoria and I were reading the script aloud in a cafe, and she noticed the repeated use of the word ‘suspension’ and had the crazy idea of suspending herself in the air for the show. I like crazy ideas, so I communicated this to our designer Ana Ines Jabares, and her and I looked at pictures of spiders, or children’s play structures, and she came up with the scaffolding and ropes to create our own Sapphic playground. We have nicknamed the structure ‘Scaffo’ for obvious reasons.

Sappho meets Scaffo! Victoria Grove in SAPPHO...IN 9 FRAGMENTS.  photo by Robert Piwko
Sappho meets Scaffo! Victoria Grove in SAPPHO…IN 9 FRAGMENTS. photo by Robert Piwko

– How exciting is it to be touring SAPPHO in Canada after your  time in the UK?

SO exciting, Kevin. Especially in Ottawa. We both know how much I love Ottawa. Victoria and I (and Scaffo) have been driving around Ontario in my mother’s car, crashing at my friends’ houses, and drinking way too much… juice. It’s the best bad-indie-rock-tour I could ever ask for.

“Uncommonly exhilarating” Exeunt Magazine
“A spectacular physical and visual piece” Remote Goat
“Stunningly athletic and entirely sensuous… fluidly directed” The Lady
“Written, directed, and executed with passion” Female Arts

SAPPHO…IN 9 FRAGMENTS is playing as part of the 2013 Ottawa Fringe Festival in the Arts Court Library. Their first show has already happened (and sold out..!), subsequent showtimes are:

Sunday June 23rd 12:00pm
Monday June 24th 5:00pm
Tuesday June 25th 8:00pm
Wednesday June 26th 5:00pm
Saturday June 29th 3:30pm

Advance tickets available HERE at the Fringe website. $10 at the door with a Fringe pin!

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