On-stage, it’s safe for Josette Jorge to open her heart.
“I always thought that it was a disadvantage to be the sensitive kid, to cry and show emotion,” she says as she chats with the Straight in the small, sleek Yaletown apartment she shares with her boyfriend. “Especially in an Asian family, you don’t have many opportunities to do that, and when you do, you’re scolded.”
The 30-year-old Filipino Canadian remembers being a shy kid who hid behind an assertive older sister. But she learned to find release through art when her mom signed her up for acting classes. “I was still shy in everyday life,” she remembers, “but on-stage I would just explode.”
Early on, Jorge’s piano teacher encouraged her to use art to channel her feelings. Recalling her early teens, she says: “Around that time, I was being bullied in school, and after school I would just sit down at the piano and I wouldn’t be able to get through a song because I would cry. But my teacher was amazing. Mr. Kerry would say, ‘Just close your eyes and play. If tears come out, tears come out.’ ”
Nonetheless, Jorge continued to try—and fail—to put her expressive self aside. When her parents insisted that she get a university degree, she entered SFU. “I was doing general arts, just random shit,” she remembers, “and I was flunking out of those courses because I was putting all of my energy and focus into community theatre.”
When her mom conceded that a theatre degree would be better than none at all, Jorge auditioned for the theatre program at SFU and got in. Emotionally, it was a homecoming. After a boyfriend broke up with her, she recalls, “I got in my car at 5 o’clock in the morning and drove to the studio at SFU, so I could just yell and scream. I had an angry monologue assigned to me, so that was fantastic.”
Still, it wasn’t until one of her profs, Marc Diamond, died suddenly in 2005 that the young artist realized how central acting was to her sense of self, and to her survival. “We were supposed to be rehearsing with Marc that day and, of course, rehearsal was cancelled. I was in the studio alone and I was just sitting there thinking, ‘I want to rehearse! I’m mourning for my professor’s death, but I want to do this.’ I spent the whole day in there.” From that point on, she got serious about her art.
Jorge’s emotional openness—as well as her skill, playfulness, and beauty—has been winning her attention. Jessie-nominated for her work in Play With Monsters last season, she also did a knockout turn as Cathy, the vulnerable math genius, in Proof. This fall, she has multiple roles in the premiere of Sean Devine’s Except in the Unlikely Event of War (a coproduction between Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Theatre and Pi Theatre at the Roundhouse November 15 to 30).
Needless to say, she’ll be pouring herself into the roles.