This week Playbill catches up with Soara-Joye Ross, who plays one of the Fates and also understudies the role of Persephone in the Tony-winning musical Hadestown at the Walter Kerr Theatre.
On Broadway Ross has also been seen in Les Misérables and Dance of the Vampires as well as in the national tour of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess. Her other theatrical credits include a Lucille Lortel-winning and Drama Desk-nominated performance in CSC's Carmen Jones plus The First Noel at The Apollo, Dessa Rose at Lincoln Center Theater, and Anything Goes at Arena Stage. Ross' TV and film work includes Garden State, Flight Attendant, and Crashing.
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What is your typical day like now?
On a typical day, I wake up late morning, after about eight hours of sleep and make up my bed. I pray, read the word, listen to a gospel song or two and meditate. I then warm up my body and voice with ballet and my vocal exercises—all at the same time because it helps build up my stamina on stage. While finishing up my final vocal warm-ups, I head into the kitchen to make my favorite chocolate zucchini and banana smoothie! Yum! Next, I shower while listening to a sermon or affirmations of some kind, wash my hair, and braid it to keep for the next six days! My hair is getting so long because it’s always in a protective style now. One day I’ll get to wear it out again! Until then… a fabulous wig tops off my lewk after I get dressed and schedule my Uber. I catch the LIRR into Penn Station, grab a bite around the theatre, and head to physical therapy to get my knees, calves, and feet worked on! The Broadway stage can be hard on the body, so we’ve got to get all the love we can at Neurosport! (I love the way they take care of the theatre community there!) Afterwards, I finish up my eats, chat with a friend, and head into the theatre to get into makeup and, ultimately, my costume to do the show! Yay, Broadway! After the show, I get out of costume, catch a train back to Penn Station, Uber home, eat a snack, chill out for a little, shower, read the word, and head to bed! The end!
Are there any parts of your role or the musical that seem particularly poignant/relevant following the events of the past two years?
Do you have five hours?! LOL! Yes! There are so many parts of my role as Fate 3 and the musical itself that are relevant with everyday life and life as we’ve known it these last couple of years. We definitely can’t overlook the issues of climate change, the power dynamic between the haves and the have-nots, and this recession the world is in right now because of the pandemic, that we seem to still be fighting our way out of. On an even more personal note, the everyday challenges of going after your heart's desires, doubt creeping into your mind where it consumes you so much you give up on said desire because you talked yourself into believing it can’t possibly happen. Phew! That was a mouthful, but true. That is something, I believe, we’ve all experienced. We must keep the faith, beloveds! Don’t look back even for a moment. You are so close!
Can you share a favorite Hadestown memory, one from onstage and one from offstage?
Yes! As some of you know, six months ago I came in as the new Fate 3, and I also cover Persephone! Whoohoo! I had the honor and absolute pleasure to go on thrice two weeks ago, and what a week it was! I made my leading lady debut on Broadway as Persephone on August 16th, my birthday! I’m telling you, God and my beloved mom are working things out in a special way up in heaven! I had about 40 loved ones in the audience that evening! Almost half of the front row were friends of mine! The audience was absolutely electric from the very start of the show, and the standing ovation mid show after my song, “Our Lady of the Underground,” was unforgettable! Some members of the cast even exclaimed, “Can your friends come to every performance?!” LOL No doubt, this is my absolute favorite memory onstage thus far!!
Offstage: By now, we all know that the fabulously talented and joy-filled Lillias White will be joining the cast as Missus Hermes very soon! Yay! Well, the first day she officially joined, after the places call was made, another voice came on the loudspeaker, and the announcer said, “Places, Soara-Joye Ross. Places has been called, Soara-Joye, places, please!” LOL! Sure enough, it was my dear friend and mentor, Lillias White! I cannot tell you how happy I was to hear her voice! I ran down the stairs and gave her the biggest, “I’m-so-glad-you’re-here hug.” Tears flowed down my cheeks! LOL! She is going to be fantastic, y'all! Get your tix now!
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow artists, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
This is a great question and was the most challenging to answer. I do see changes in the theatre community, and that is great! I see more BIPOC artists in nontraditional roles and in positions of power. I still want to see more of us! Onstage and offstage. I’d say, don’t get complacent with where we are now. Things can be even better! We are not done.
I’d also like to put out there that we need to be more aware and proactive when it comes to persons with disabilities in the theatre community. As a person with a chronic illness who’s legally considered disabled, I would like to see a greater willingness to understand and aid persons with disabilities a bit better. It does seem like there can be more training in this field.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past year-and-a-half that you didn't already know?
I learned that, once again, where there’s a will, there’s a way and that I can do anything I put my mind and efforts towards! I actually learned how to play the accordion in a month! Me! Soara-Joye Ross is carrying and playing a ten-pound accordion… onstage… accompanying professional musicians and performers… while singing and dancing… on Broadway… eight times a week in front of hundreds of people. That blows my mind! I still have to practice, like any musician for sure, because sometimes, I’ll have a wonky moment, but my goodness, I never in a million years would have thought I’d be doing that. Life is so funny! Challenging and funny!
Do you have any other stage or screen projects in the works?
I was getting several offers a month for new projects, but because of the demands of my job at Hadestown, I’ve had to turn them all down. Honestly, playing Fate 3 and, now, Persephone at times, has been taking all of my time. They are very demanding roles for several different reasons and take a lot of my attention to focus on perfecting the details. Ten-ish years ago, at a rehearsal for the national tour of The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess, Diane Paulus told us, “God is in the details!” That has always stayed with me. I have worked so hard to get where I am right now. I’m sure, something exciting will come along soon that I will want to work on in my free time, but I am confident that being still here these last few months have been exactly what I’ve needed.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
I don’t have a specific organization that I donate to on a regular basis, other than Transformation Church. They take the money I donate and give it to a multitude of organizations and people in need all over the world on my behalf. I would suggest that everyone give as much as they can regularly to anyone expressing need. Like Hadestown, the world is in a depression era, and so many need help. Keep your eyes open and give daily. A kind word, unused clothes, a subway gift card to a homeless person. Whatever you have to offer. Just give! We are here to help others, and it always comes back to you!
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