MSOPA celebrates 25 years

Egbert Gaye

You have to love the hardscrabble industry of theatre and film to stay excited after 25 years of ups and downs.
Meet Josa Maule, who since 1992 has trained a generation of aspiring actors in Montreal while opening doors for many through her network with film and television production companies across North America.
Over the years, through Josa Maule’s School of Performing Arts (MSOPA), she must have mentored over five thousand actors, hundreds of filmmakers and playwrights, encouraging them to have a good work ethic, build bridges and network.
She is the first to tell that it hasn’t been easy and at times the business has taken a toll on her health, but she says that the support of her students past and present has been vital in sustaining her.
And as such, she says she feels “blessed.”
“Twenty five years ago I set out to do something and I wasn’t sure if it was going to work. We’ve faced some difficulties, but I also met a lot of wonderful people who helped me along the way, and a lot who continue to help.
More than that, it’s good to know that I have the respect of all my students, past and present, which is a very diverse group of all ages.”
Every year about 100 aspiring actors seeking the fundamentals to get a foot in the door participate in workshops at MSOPA, which are offered six days a week.
Maule says participants benefit from being in small classes and have access to a team of highly qualified industry professionals who offer the workshops and support.
“I also try to instill in them the proper work ethic and remind them to always aspire to be a working actor and I make it my business to broaden their range of experience by exposing them to all other aspects of the industry, both in front of the camera and behind it.”
She says MSOPA’s students also benefit from the network of connections she has made with local and international film production companies as a casting director. As it was when she was called upon to provide the cast of local actors for the acclaimed movie that depicted the lives of the wives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Betty and Coretta.
Because of good working relationships, I’m always one of the first persons in Montreal they call when they’re casting for a project. Several of her students have appeared in a number of other well-received films and television specials such as Rebelle-War Witch.
Looking back at the time when she ventured into the business, overflowing with excitement Maule says it’s all she ever wanted to do.
“I remember staging fashion shows in our basement for my mom when they would come to the house for parties and charging them a dollar,” she says with a mischievous grin.
She launched the Montreal School of Performing Arts in 1992 out of the Atwater Library and has been on the move since.
Along the way she set up and worked out of the NDG Entrepreneurs’ Centre, The Korean Church on Decarie Blvd in NDG, and 3796 Notre Dame Street. These days she is operating out of Centre Green-The Unity Club in Westmount.
She feels a bit restricted because she remembers doing a play a month when she had the available performance space in the past.
There has been a lot of tough times over the years, pointing to bouts of depression and other ailments, none of which has been able to keep her down for long, saying that she has been empowered by the unconditional love and support that she has had from many of her students, friends and family members.
She also values the recognition of her efforts that were conferred upon her by various organizations across Canada, including being featured in Maclean’s magazine in the July 2016 special edition: 110 Canadian Stories.
She was also awarded for her contributions to the arts and to the community by Alliance Quebec, Youth Employment Service and was a Black History Month laureate in 2010. She received A Woman of Merit award from Playmas Montreal Cultural Association.
For Black History Month, Maule will be showcase her talents as a producer and director as she collaborates with the UNIA to present A Story of a Black Woman in Memory of Angelique, a stage presentation of the slave woman who etched her name in the annals of history by her defiance against the intuition of slavery.
The play with its multicultural cast will be staged at the UNIA Hall, 2741 Notre Dame on February 17 and 18 at 8:30 PM. Tickets for the February 18 show are still available. Call (514-487-2790).
Info. on MSOPA