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Zack Fine as Valentine in "Two Gents" at Folger Theatre. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Zack Fine as Valentine in “Two Gents” at Folger Theatre. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Sheesh!

It’s Monday and it’s our first day off since arriving in DC a week ago to start tech for “Two Gents” at the Folger Theatre. Last I wrote to you I was in the “muckity-muck” of rehearsal. That ‘muckity-muck” continued throughout our week of tech and previews, but finally found it’s breaking point with opening night. It has been a fascinating and exhausting challenge to release the joy in this story, but when it happened it was glorious and well worth the wait.

It feels like we have now arrived at the beginning again, but in a whole new way. What I mean by that is that we spent our 5 weeks of rehearsal trying to understand how we wanted to share “Two Gents” and by opening night much of that came together. What arrived on opening night was a baseline from which to explore the play over the next month (through May 25, to be exact), and for that reason alone it was a successful opening for us. We realized that the play can live in a radically stripped-down way.

Valentine (Zachary Fine) kisses his true love Sylvia (Emily Young) . Photo by Teresa Wood.

Valentine (Zachary Fine) kisses his true love Sylvia (Emily Young) . Photo by Teresa Wood.

Fiasco Theater’s process allows everyone to feel together in the pursuit of the play. That also means that things can actually fall apart, or at least feel like they are falling apart, and that can be so scary when you are set to open a show on a certain date and not sure you are ready to share what you’ve made. This is my first time going through this process with Fiasco, but I was buoyed by the faith and confidence of the entire company and the directors. There is a trust amongst Fiasco that allows for risk and failure that is so very rare, and in my opinion, yields thrilling live theater. It is certainly a thrill and honor to be part of it all. I’ve never before had the experience of a show growing so much through previews and into opening night.

There is a togetherness in this venture that I’ve never before experienced. All hands are truly on deck. This isn’t the case for many other shows I’ve been in. More often than not there is a division amongst the actors and the director and the production teams and everyone is battling their own fears and issues alone. For an art form that relies on the communal experience of storytelling to actually make it happen, the process can at times feel incredibly isolating and fractured. This process was a communal effort and because of that, there is a wonderful pride and agency in the work. I feel my heart onstage in every single performance and every single moment of the play. I also feel that my work is truly a result of everyone’s work. We moved forward and backward as a family and it was profound to journey through it all in this way.

It’s raining letters in Fiasco Theater’s "Two Gents." Pictured: Zachary Fine. Photo by Teresa Wood.

It’s raining letters in Fiasco Theater’s “Two Gents.” Pictured: Zachary Fine. Photo by Teresa Wood.

I think that a large reason why we grew as we did is because we are together onstage each night, watching the growth that each actor is going through. Throughout rehearsal and previews we were all searching out what it means to be in “Two Gents” and how to manage the highs and lows of the storytelling. The benefit of being in that space of confusion onstage together each night is that we are truly sharing the burden of those questions. One person’s confusion is the group’s confusion. One person’s triumph is the group’s triumph. It’s radical, profound and revelatory. It’s a physical manifestation of what we all hope for in the theater and in life. A celebration of togetherness. To believe that we are traveling together through the ups and downs is the ultimate gift to receive. To feel connected. That connection is hard to hold onto sometimes, particularly when we all battle feelings of shame and inadequacy in the process of making anything. That shame and inadequacy makes us want to isolate ourselves out of a sense of unworthiness.  That has always been my modus operandi up until this show. I’ve always felt alone as an actor in my struggles. Through this process I’ve learned how to feel less alone, and to let my challenges live with more acceptance rather than constantly tearing myself down for being not as good as I hoped I would be.

Zachary Fine (left, Valentine) and Noah Brody (Proteus) are The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Zachary Fine (left, Valentine) and Noah Brody (Proteus) are The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Photo by Teresa Wood.

Without space to find love and acceptance in your failure there will never be growth. It’s a thing that we hear often, but until you are truly surrounded by love and support, it’s a hard thing to accept. My experience with Fiasco has revealed this to be a truth undeniable, and the acceptance of such love has been life changing.

Innovation and failure are undoubtedly linked and when we allow ourselves to risk together in a spirit of faith and love and support we find permission to release so much more of ourselves. This collectivity is something that enlarges our humanity. We feel it in the theater each night as we look into the audience’s eyes and ask them to lay down their burdens for a bit and come with us on a ride. It’s a true leap of faith for us all every time we head out on that stage. I couldn’t be prouder to take that leap as a member of Fiasco every night.