ARTISTA builds and empowers a community of Montreal young women and supports them through the early stages of their careers, whatever those may be. Artistic independence and confidence, as well as increased knowledge in artistic craftsmanship are acquired through mentorship, creative collaboration and professional performance training.


The participants and the project leaders meet once a week from January to May for dinner and theatre training and creation. Students, teachers, mentors, and alumni of the program, are invited to join this weekly meal where dialogue and reflections about learning can happen.

Mentorship time provides each participant with the opportunity to learn an artistic skill through one-on-one teaching.

The leaders take participants to see professional productions in Montreal.

Artista culminates in a performance of the collectively created work, presented to friends, family and the professional theatre community.

Acting training gives students essential skills for success in any field of study or occupation. Imago’s safe learning environment allows students to develop skills in creative problem solving, connected inter-personal communication, team-building, leadership, self-confidence, self-motivation, listening, physical confidence, vocal confidence and empathy. Utmost care will be placed on creating a supportive environment for students to explore these life-lessons.

2017 ARTISTA Session | January 17 – May 4, 2017
Our ARTISTA OUTCOME took place at the Georges-Vanier Cultural Centre on May 4, 2017
For more information contact ARTISTA’s Program Director, Joy Ross-Jones at

Upcoming Artista Session | January – May 2018 
Applications available | November 2017 

2017 Session | Home & Belonging

This year’s Artista session was brave, rich, and exciting.

We selected a group of 15 amazing young women to partake in 15 weeks of free training, mentorship, theatre outings, meals, and the opportunity to create and perform original work in front of an audience of artists and community members. The session was supported by our three professional artist mentors, Stefanie Buxton, Deena Aziz and Felicia Shulman, as well as Artista’s program directors, Joy Ross-Jones and Lorena Trigos. Both our process of creation and the outcome performance that resulted, were both outstanding.

This year we selected the themes of Home & Belonging to guide our process, and in doing so, we contributed to a larger conversation about Canada’s past, present and future as a nation of diverse peoples. We decided to delve into social history by reaching out to women in our lives who have unique stories of Home & Belonging, onces which could serve as a starting point for creation. This interviews inspired movement, storytelling and script creation. The outcome performance, a manifestation of this learning and creating, required all of us to push our boundaries and engage in risky conversations. Ultimately, our voices collectively shed a unique light on what it means to come home to a place, a body, or the challenges of not being able to ground ourselves in either. Laban, viewpoints and Nia-Groove offered movement technique for our session, and many rich discussions about representation in the world as well as on stage expanded our horizons and the way we approach our creations as theatre artists.

Participants: Violette Kay, Xin Shu, Samantha Bitonti, Jedidah Nabwangu, Phoebe Thompson, Cicely Austin, Victoria Hall, Avleen Mokha, Cayla Clarkson, Jayati Samar, Amanda Marra, Rilla Kingston, Alicia Fayet, Mercedeh Baroque, Esmée Cook, Mentors: Deena Aziz, Stefanie Buxton, Felicia Schulman, Program Directors: Joy Ross-Jones, Lorena Trigos


JOY ROSS-JONES | Program Director                                           LORENA TRIGOS | Associate Program Director                   Joy_Squarel_trigos_lr-4231

Joy Ross-Jones is an actor, puppeteer, improviser and theatre educator of mixed Venezuelan and Canadian descent. She has studied at McGill University and Concordia University, where she specialized in theatre and theatre for social change. She is presently doing her Masters in Art Education at Concordia, with a focus on the empowering effects theatre performance has on its practitioners. From July 2013 until May 2016, Joy worked at Imago Theatre as Artistic and Administrative Associate where she supported the creation and presentation of If We Were Birds (Erin Shields), Random (Debbie Tucker Green), Have We Forgotten Yet?, Pig Girl (Colleen Murphy) and Her Side of the Story. During her time at Imago, Joy also co-created ARTISTA, a free theatre mentorship for young women in need, which is now entering its third annual session. Select performance credits include: The Importance of Being Earnest (Moyse Hall), The Caretaker (TNC Theatre), Attempts on Her Life (TNC Theatre), The Explorer (F.C. Smith Theatre), the staged reading of The Refugee Hotel (Imago and Teesri Duniya) and 33 Variations (Brave New Productions). Joy also enjoys regular performances with her improv troupe, Goddamn Bear, at Montreal Improv Theatre.

Lorena Trigos is a set designer and puppeteer originally from Mexico. She studied dance, singing and visual art, and completed a degree in Interior Design in Mexico City. Her first Canadian experience was in Vancouver, studying Visual Arts at Emily Carr University in 2011. She then returned to Mexico to work in set and costume design. In 2015, she graduated in Set and Costume Design from The National Theatre School of Canada. Her journey then took her to Brussels to study street puppet theatre, puppet construction and manipulation in The PLAN B workshop with Natacha Belova.  She has since been working in Montreal and Mexico, designing, assisting and constructing puppets. She created Sin Palabras, an association with various collaborators from Quebec, France, and Mexico, offering mask making and theatre workshops to professionals artists and to people interested in but not experienced in theatre arts.

DEENA AZIZ | Artista Mentor                     FELICIA SHULMAN | Artista Mentor       STEFANIE BUXTON | Artista Mentor 
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          felisha_square_small      Stefanie Buxton_square

Based in Montreal, DEENA AZIZ has worked across Canada and internationally in theatre and in film. Stage credits involve work with companies including Imago Theatre, Geordie Productions, the Segal Centre, Alberta Theatre Projects, the Stratford Festival, Vancouver Arts Club, the National Arts Centre, Nightswimming, Nightwood, Cahoots and Canadian Stage. TV/film credits include Mary Harron’s The Moth Diaries, Guy Maddin’s silent film tribute Seances, and the Syfy series Being Human and Helix.Away from stage and camera, Deena has worked extensively as a dramaturge, coordinator and producer, and is an active champion for promoting equity and inclusion in the performing arts.

FELICIA SHULMAN- Felicia Shulman is a Black Belt certified Nia instructor and a versatile, passionate actress with over thirty years of international experience in theatre, film, television, voice and movement (jazz, modern, ballet, tap, Spanish, character). She has danced nationally in musicals and musical revues. Felicia has also been involved in and taught fitness since 1985. CALA certified, she loves dancing and teaching Yoga in the water! She is continually training in movement and fitness at various workshops and conferences worldwide: The Y.M.C.A.’s continuing education program, Fitforces, Canfit Pro, CALA, YogaFit, Miss Sugarpuss’s Burlesque Etiquette, 5 Rhythms, 5 Stages of Healing, and Misty Tripoli’s THEGROOVE. Felicia is an enthusiastic fun dynamic teacher who puts people at ease immediately, and cultivates the best in each individual.

STEFANIE BUXTON is a graduate of Concordia University’s Specialization in Theatre Performance.  She is a Montreal-based actress working in theatre, film, television and voice.  Selected theatre credits include:  If We Were Birds (Imago Theatre), Angel’s Share (Composite Theatre/Montreal Fringe 2013), Medea (Scapegoat Carnivale/Centaur Theatre), The Madonna Painter (Centaur Theatre), Rock, Paper, Jackknife… (Talisman/Centaur Theatre), Down The Main Drag (Hatch Festival and Summerworks) and girls!girls!girls! (FTA).  Film and television credits include North Pole, Fatal Vows, Do No Harm, Sophie, Fries With That?, My First Wedding, Wicker Park and Tales from the Neverending Story.  She has also performed original voices for the animated series My Life Me and Station X, as well as the animated feature film Sahara.  Alongside her work as a professional actress, Stefanie is an acting instructor at ASM Performing Arts and has taught with Geordie Theatre School.  Stefanie will be performing in The Other Theatre/Talisman Theatre co-production of Province this fall at the Centaur Theatre.

              ANANA RYDVALD | Mask 
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ALEXANDRIA HABER is a Montreal based playwright and actor. Her plays have been produced across Canada and include: Life Here After, (Imago at Centaur Theatre’s Wildside –also the 2010 winner of Infinite Theatre’s Write-on-Q! playwriting Competition) Closed for Urgent and Extraordinary Work, commissioned by Imago and produced by Theatre Yes in Edmonton as part of the National Elevator Play project.  Cross My Heart, (co- written with Ned Cox) Montreal Fringe Festival 2013, short- listed for Best New Text.   I Don’t like Mondays, A Christmas Carol (adapted from the Charles Dickens novel) Geordie Theatre, Four minutes if you Bleed (co- written with Ned Cox) presented as Centaur Theatre’s Brave New Works in 2012, Housekeeping & Homewrecking (Theatre Ste. Catherine), Ordinary Times (Centaur’s Wildside and Femfest) and Birthmarks, (Infinite Theatre) She has also written several radio dramas, produced by CBC Radio, as well as short stories. She is currently in development with Quiet Revolution Pictures with her first Feature film. She also is very excited to be a member of Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre’s 2014 Playwrights Unit, where she is working on a new play called: On This Day. In September, Geordie theatre will produce her newest play, Game Changers, which will tour Elementary schools across Canada.

A native Northern Ontarian, DANIELLE DESORMEAUX studied Music at Queen’s University and graduated in 1984. She began her acting career in 1991in Ottawa.  Film and television credits include: How the Gimquat Found Her Song ( Award of Excellence at the 2007 Accolade Television Awards, Best Children’s Program at the 2008 Banff World Television Festival), the Oscar-winning Affliction (dir. Paul Schrader), Stardom (dir. Denis Arcand), The War of 1812, Big Sugar (dir. Brian McKenna).   Some of her favourite stage projects include: The Comedy of Errors (dir. Peter Hinton NAC/Centaur), Romeo and Juliet (dir. Jean Asselin), National Capital/e Nationale (dir. Robert Lepage – NAC), The Tempest (dir. D.D. Kugler), Housekeeping & Homewrecking (2007-08 Montreal Critics Circle Award – Best Ensemble) as well as her own bilingual adaptation of The Anger In Ernest and Ernestine for Hudson Village Theatre (dir. Alain Goulem).  Danielle’s work in improvisation and clown has lead to the creation of new theatre works including Rhythm In Your Rubbish for Platypus Theatre, the critically acclaimed Umloüt and MöcShplat for Clowns Gone Bad.  Danielle has been a member of the award winning Platypus Theatre touring company since 1998 performing with symphony orchestras across the Canada, the U.S. and South-East Asia.

Born in Mexico City, GITANJALI JAIN’s background is in theatre and voice. Having studied at UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), she also attended l’École Internationale de Jacques Lecoq and Panthéâtre in Paris. Gitanjali performed for over five years as an aerialist, actor, dancer, and chanter in ARRA Montreal’s award-winning ‘Ulalena in Maui, Hawai’i. More recent stage credits include Chorus member in Scapegoat Carnivale Theatre’s Medea and The Bacchae at the Centaur Theatre, and Othello at the Segal Centre. She has performed internationally with the Caravan StageBarge theatre, as well as with jazz saxophonist/composer Matana Roberts, and salsa/R&B singer Joe Bataan. In November 2012 Gitanjali directed, co-composed, produced and performed in Alicuanta, a staged song cycle which recounts the legacy of her great grandfather. Premiered at the Salle Gesù, Alicuanta was remounted at Aluna Theatre’s Panamerican Routes Festival in Toronto earlier this year. The recording of Alicuanta will be launched later this month.

Originally from Sweden, ANANA RYDVALD first came to Montreal to study at Les Grands Ballets Canadiens at the age of 12.  Since then she trained as an actress and mask artist in both Europe and Canada and eventually became a teacher at John Abbott College in Mime and Improvisation.  Before settling down in Montreal she worked as an actress for several years with the renowned Scandinavian Theatre group Cantabile 2 that creates site-specific performances around the world. She was last seen on stage as a mask performer in V-Cards at The Wildside Festvial, as Lady M. in Repercussion Theatre’s Macbeth, a pupeteer in Scapegoat Carnivale’s The Heretics of Bohemia and as Amanda in LoveULovecraft with The Other Theatre. She was awarded the Mecca revelation award for her self written mask show Section O in 2006 and is currently creatiing another solo show with masks that will mount in 2015.

Artista Participants


Olivia Dhepaganon
Bruna Florio
Sarah Lapointe
Tiernan Cornford
Katherine Chou


Ajah Richards
Adriana Cignola
Destiny Gregoire
Nickisha Thomas
Caitlin Heiligmann
Anouk Matte
Amanda Coochey


Violette Kay
Xin Shu
Samantha Bitonti
Jedidah Nabwangu
Phoebe Thompson
Cicely Austin
Victoria Hal
lAvleen Mokha
Cayla Clarkson
Jayati Samar
Amanda Marra
Rilla Kingston
Alicia Fayet
Mercedeh Baroque
Esmée Cook

This initiative is made possible by the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, a collaboration between the Foundation du Grant Montréal, the Government of Canada, and extraordinary leaders from coast to coast to coast.

Artista is supported by

Logo_FDGM    rbc-foundation

and by our partner

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