Theatre has always been a part of my life in one way or another. I was in my first play at the age of 9, and I started taking drama classes at the Ottawa School of Theatre (formerly Orleans Young Players) and the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama (OSSD) soon afterwards. I attended the drama program at Canterbury High School, where I discovered my love for directing theatre, and later studied at the University of Ottawa (BA English and Theatre, MA Theatre Theory and Dramaturgy).
My directorial debut in 2005 was Québécité, a multicultural, bilingual, spoken word romance with a libretto by Governor General Award winner George Elliott Clarke. When I lived in England, I directed the London premiere of Jane Montgomery Griffiths’ Sappho…in 9 fragments, a queer love story spanning millennia, that toured Canada and played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2013. I also directed a post-apocalyptic adaptation of William Shakespeare’s As You Like It at The Rose Playhouse. See below for review quotes and posters.
Most recently, I created and produced The Ghomeshi Effect, a documentary dance-theatre performance on sexual violence and the legal system in Canada. Following its 2017 premiere in Ottawa, the production toured universities and communities across Ontario and Alberta, and its artists participated in a number of thematically-related workshops, presentations, conferences, fundraisers, and livestreams. While writing the script for The Ghomeshi Effect, I was a member of the Great Canadian Theatre Company’s Playwrights Network, and I later received an Ottawa International Women’s Day Feminist Award for my work on the production.
Sappho …in 9 fragments
by Jane Montgomery Griffiths
★★★★ Exeunt Magazine: “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.”
★★★★ Broadway Baby “Utterly spellbinding… Victoria Grove’s performance oozes luxury. Sensuous and husky, listening to her delivery of the euphonic script feels like it should be a forbidden pleasure. Effortlessly athletic, she swings, stretches, swoops about the stage.”
Fully Fringed: “Director Jessica Ruano, an Ottawa native with many successful projects under her belt, has brilliantly brought together the perfect harmony of a well-written piece, powerful acting, beautiful choreography, and superior staging. This is really, really, just a beautiful and well-crafted piece of theatre. Go see it.”
As You Like It
by William Shakespeare
The Rose Playhouse
★★★★ Plays to See: “Jessica Ruano’s breezy, funny, disquieting, seventy-five-minute production is no quaintly abridged Lamb Tale. Shakespeare has been edited, to such excellent effect that I can’t remember why I ever thought Touchstone was important.”
★★★★ Views from the Gods: “Never one to shy away from risk-taking, Ruano has trimmed a few subplots, hacked away at the cast list and done away with the famous (but overlaboured) epilogue. Initially we’ve left with a sense of loss – is that really it? – but on reflection, all threads are tied up: it’s a bold but neat adaptation.”
DIVA Magazine: “Ruano has achieved something rather incredible by succeeding in distilling a comedy of all its humour, and instead presenting a dark tale of obsession, love and survival.” … “Bizarrely, it works.”
WIN OR DIE: A woman’s odyssey through theatre
Tristan Bates Theatre
Inspired by the Marquis de Meurteil’s infamous creed, ‘WIN OR DIE’ 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.
Remote Goat: “The final scene, ‘Checkmate’ by Jessica Ruano, was a particular favourite and something I would like to see more of. The dry, witty nature and strong character differentials allowed the actors to play, and it was clear they were having fun with it.”