ARTISTA: Bringing Free Theatre Training and Mentorship to Female Youth

ARTISTA Program Coordinators Warona Setshwaelo (left) and Joy Ross-Jones (right) Photo by Steph Weiner ARTISTA Program Coordinators Warona Setshwaelo (left) and Joy Ross-Jones (right) Photo by Steph Weiner

Inspired by Toronto’s the AMY Project, Montreal’s Imago Theater will soon launch the inaugural session of its ARTISTA program which aims to bring empowerment and mentorship to the young women of Montreal through theater.

Artista Logo

Artista Logo

Joy Ross-Jones is the Administrative and Artistic Associate at the Imago Theater. She’s also a performer and theater teacher. For the last year, she laboured tirelessly to bring ARTISTA to life and is excited to see it become a reality. Working with fellow Program Coordinator and actor, Warona Setshwaelo, the two have recruited a team of 14 professional artists to join them in teaching and mentoring the program’s participants.

On Monday nights, and for 13 weeks beginning September 22, a group of 15 young women (aged 16-21) will join Ross-Jones and Setshwaelo for a community meal, engage in exercises, attend professional performances, receive training and have the chance to experience different aspects of theater performance and production. From acting to playwriting, production to directing, these young women will be given the opportunity to explore these creative avenues for themselves. Unique to this program is one-on-one mentorship with working professionals and a focus on the practical skills it takes to get a job in the industry. At the end of the 13 weeks, the group will put on a scripted performance of their own creation.

The reason the program is exclusively for female youth stems primarily from Imago Theater’s mandate which is to “tell her side of the story.” Additionally, explained the Project Coordinators, they want to enable equal access to the industry. They hope to have a positive impact on these young women by providing them with a safe space to explore their stories and create collaboratively.

ARTISTA Program Coordinators Warona Setshwaelo (left) and Joy Ross-Jones (right) Photo by Steph Weiner

ARTISTA Program Coordinators Warona Setshwaelo (left) and Joy Ross-Jones (right) Photo by Steph Weiner

“Theater provides a place to share, to connect with people, feel present in your own skin. It helps build confidence, interpersonal skills […]. It is a theater program but […] the skills that you learn could be very beneficial to a lot of different avenues in life that you might choose to go in,” says Ross-Jones.

“I wish I had had something like this when I came here [to Montreal] to be an actor,” adds Setshwaelo.

Another part of the identity of the program is the host community. Imago Theater hopes to build a relationship with Little Burgundy while using their gorgeous space at the Georges-Vanier Cultural Center. They intend for the diversity of the neighbourhood to be reflected in the participants of the program.

Any young woman who is interested and passionate about exploring her creativity through this program and can commit to one night a week, is encouraged to apply. Applications are being accepted until September 12 (click HERE for details).

If you’re like me and think this project is simply awesome, you can also help them out right now. Remember, the program is offered to participants for free! ARTISTA is running an Indiegogo campaign until October 4th to raise $10,000 to fund their first year of operations. Awards, aside from just feeling good for supporting ARTISTA, include tickets to upcoming shows and attending one of the weekly meals.

You might be someone who would like to make a significant contribution to building the community of empowered women in Montreal, or you know someone who fits this description. If so, ARTISTA would be thrilled to have your support.

Support Artista’s Indiegogo Campaign until October 4, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. HERE. Stay tuned for an update on ARTISTA in the fall.