|PLAYWRIGHT/ACTOR VITTORIO ROSSI & YOUNG ACTOR JAA SMITH-JOHNSON TO SPEAK AT THEIR ALMA MATER JAMES LYNG HIGH SCHOOL|
MONTREAL, FEBRUARY 3 , 2015– James Lyng High School (5440 Notre Dame West) in St. Henri will welcome back two former students who have excelled in the arts, actor and playwright Vittorio Rossi and young actor Jaa Smith-Johnson, on Wednesday, February 4 (1:30 p.m.).
Rossi, whose parents came to Canada from Italy, has played numerous roles on stage and screen but remains best known for his role as detective Tom Celano in the television series Omertà: La loi du silence, which held the highest viewer ratings in Quebec from 1996 to 1998. As a playwright, he is widely considered to be the inaugural Italian-Canadian voice on the English-Canadian stage.
Rossi's awakening as a writer came when, as an acting student at Dawson College, he was encouraged by his writing instructor, John Lucas, to write about what he knew best - the Italian community in Montréal. Rossi graduated from Concordia University in 1985 with a bachelor of fine arts in theatre performance and began his playwriting career in 1986, winning the Best New Play Award at the Quebec Drama Festival (QDF) for Little Blood Brother. He won a second QDF award in 1987 for Backstreets, a play that he describes as written "out of pure, unadulterated anger" over the death of his cousin. His first full-length play, The Chain, broke attendance records in 1988 at the Centaur. His next play, Scarpone (Italian for "clodhopper"), based on his experience selling shoes, was also a popular success at Centaur.
In 1992, Rossi was commissioned by Dawson College's Dome Theatre to write In Pursuit of a Cow, a play dealing with the aftermath of a fictional shooting of two women in a local bar. His most acclaimed drama, The Last Adam, a powerful Oedipal tragedy, premiered in 1994, and the published script won the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for Drama in 1996.
The Envelope will be Rossi’s 10th play produced at the Centaur. As the storyline goes, while excited actors gather in a local Italian restaurant, two producers jockey for the film rights to a new play premiering at an Old Montreal Theatre. Torn between an indie L.A. filmmaker and a local producer who dangles a tempting multi-million dollar envelope from the Federal Film Fund, the playwright confronts ambition over loyalty and money over art. Made in Canada movie projects generate more red tape than red carpet winners in this satiric and engaging new play about the celluloid dream factory. It will be on stage March 24 to April 19. For more details log on to http://www.centaurtheatre.com/theenvelope.php.
Aside from theatre, Jaa has had the privilege and opportunity to be in more than a handful of films & TV shows including Race (Jesse Race Productions), Trigger Point (Incendo), 19-2 (Sphere media), X-MEN: Days of Future Past (Fox/Marvel), Inheriting Trouble and Til Death Do Us Part (CMJ Productions) and Smurfs 2 (Sony Pictures) just to name a few. He’s been nominated for three METAs at the Montreal Theatre English Awards for outstanding lead actor (twice), and outstanding emerging artist. Jaa was also chosen by Black Theatre Workshop to be this year’s recipient of the Gloria Mitchell-Aleong Award (2015), for his artistic excellence, community spirit, entrepreneurial commitment and leadership in the arts. In 2011 he created and was one of the founding members of his theatre company called Third Eye Ensemble. Since its founding, Third Eye has produced four solid theatre productions: The Exonerated (two runs), Hard Times and Shhh…just let it happen. He had the privilege to star in all four productions and produce them. The company is now in the works of producing its fifth theatre production. His company’s mandate is to provoke thought and communication about socially relevant issues in collaboration with our Canadian artistic communities.
Michael J. Cohen