Jo Morris is a wonderful Perth actress who has played many great roles both for the large theatre companies and for some of the independent theatre groups in Perth and Western Australia.
Her most recent role in Perth was Stella in Tennessee Williams’ iconic play “A Streetcar Named Desire” which was put on by Black Swan Theatre Company at the State Theatre of Western Australia, directed by Kate Cherry.
Jo played Stella, the sister of Blanche Dubois who was played by well-known actress Sigrid Thornton.
Apart from being an extremely talented actress, Jo is an intelligent, articulate and all round gorgeous person. She is passionate about the arts in Perth as well as small business and people who are following their dreams. And so are we! We are honoured to have interviewed her as our first ever creative for our “Questions Over Coffee” segment. Enjoy!
1) How did you find playing the role of Stella in “Streetcar” with someone like Sigrid Thornton?
It was fantastic. It is a big deal for Perth to get someone like Sigrid Thornton, because we are so far away it doesn’t happen all the time so it was really great to have her come over here for Streetcar. I remember getting a call from my agent who said they’re just checking if you’re available for this role. I couldn’t believe it, there are so many amazing actresses in Perth so getting opportunities to play roles like Stella are few and far between. I remember hearing that Black Swan were doing Streetcar and I thought ‘wow that would be such an incredible opportunity for any actresses to play those lead female roles.’ Tennessee Williams writes the most extraordinary female parts in all of his plays.
When I first heard about it and I heard that Sigrid Thornton was playing Blanche, my initial reaction was “Who could possibly be playing Stella?” Then the idea that I may be able to play her suddenly came up and I remember wondering how I would even begin to tackle that role. But the idea of playing a character like this next to a woman like Sigrid, who has been working constantly in the industry for so long is just amazing. It’s very humbling because it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity, you have to make the absolute most of it. I remember thinking that this was going to be so terrifying but you just have to do it as best as you can and throw yourself in and try to be as fearless as possible.
Working with Sigrid was pretty incredible in its own right because she is a woman who is all of those things; fearless, humble, and incredibly professional. She’s always happy to say what she’s thinking and stand up for herself and other artists. She is incredibly talented and a very generous actress to work alongside. She really led by example. Her first priority was never the role of Blanche, it was always the play as a whole and the ensemble. It was always about the group telling the story together. She had no ego, the entire cast were all made to feel just as important as each other, no matter the size of their role. She gave all of us permission to throw ourselves in and be scared and experiment with the play. I took great inspiration from her.
2) Can you please tell us a bit about your background?
I went to Curtin University a year after finishing high school and did the 3 year BA course in Theatre Arts. This was the first time I had met likeminded, creative people and people who were interested in the same things I was, which was wonderful. Straight after that I was accepted into NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Arts) in Sydney and I did the 3 year acting course there and got a degree. After NIDA I lived in Sydney, only for another year; Sydney was never really my thing, it never felt like home to me. Then for 2 and a half years I went travelling where I did no acting at all, I worked in bars. And then after that I came back to Perth in 2006, met this phenomenal community of artists and I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard work but as the years progressed the reality of having a career for the rest of my life, doing what I love, which is theatre, became more and more possible. And that’s a really humbling thing and I know that it’s a real gift to be doing something that you are passionate about and that you love and that can be quite rare so I do feel lucky.
3) What are your thoughts about the arts in Perth and where it is heading?
I’m incredibly proud to be part of the Perth community, I think that the independent theatre scene is so incredibly strong and embracing. I am from Perth originally but I moved back here in 2006 after studying over east and working and travelling overseas. I was immediately bowled over by how eager people were to include others into the community. I have met the most incredible creative people here. The theatre scene is strong and alive in Perth and as a city we should feel incredibly proud. This has been especially highlighted since we’ve had the Perth Fringe Festival; Fringe has been such a huge success, it has been really well promoted and organised and it has drawn large crowds. A lot of the artists I’ve met from both overseas and interstate who have come over to WA to take part in the Fringe have been really overwhelmed by how inviting and warm the reception has been. I have met so many people since coming back to Perth, not just actors, but theatre makers. People who write, direct, technical people, musicians, dancers, poets, producers, all sorts of incredible talent who contribute to the overall story telling process. When it comes to theatre in Perth, there are a lot of people who are writing scripts, putting together shows and writing the music for their play. There’s a huge amount of multi-tasking and proactive arts-making which is great as people are creating opportunities and it is possible to do this in Perth. It is about a whole community of people rather than just individuals which is pretty special.
Thank you so much Jo. We are a huge fan of yours here at Seasons Online and we look forward to seeing you on stage again in the near future.
Part Two of this interview will be posted soon. In part two we talk about Jo’s future and get to know Jo a little bit better, outside of acting.