In Part 3 of Fiasco Theater’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Cymbeline at Folger Theatre: meet Fiasco Theater Company’s Co-Artistic Director and Co-Founder Noah Brody.
Joel: When did Folger contact you about bringing The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Cymbeline to their theatre and why did you accept?
Noah: They reached out to us in the beginning of 2013. We had been talking for a year or more about opportunities for Fiasco and Folger to join forces. Both Beth [Emelson] and Janet [Griffin] were very supportive of our work and we became big fans of theirs through our meetings. It was clear that they would be great collaborators. Together we winnowed possible titles down to Two Gents.
Will you be making any changes to Cymbeline (which I saw in NYC and adored) for the Folger production and who will be in the cast and directing?
Well, we will be making one significant change: the set for Cymbeline has never accommodated for two columns. Though we’ll be making that adjustment on the fly, it’s exactly the kind of challenge that we relish.
Have any of you performed in DC or at The Folger before, and if yes where, and how would you describe DC area audiences? And if you haven’t, what have you heard about the DC theatre community and DC audiences?
I have not, but it’s clearly a very experienced and intelligent audience with a strong tradition of classical theater, which is very exciting.
How did you all meet and why did you choose Fiasco as the title of your theatre company? (Sorry, I had to ask it for obvious reasons!)
We all met at the Brown University/Trinity Rep MFA program. One of the folk etymologies for “fiasco” comes from the Commedia dell’Arte tradition. Legend has it that when a new piece or lozzo was tried, if it failed, “fare fiasco,” or “make the bottle,” aka “you’re buying tonight.” We chose the name for its theatrical roots and to remind ourselves that one has to risk failure if greatness is to be achieved.
Your artwork/poster has a cute dog lying on top of a script or notes. What does it symbolize?
Well, that was Folger’s decision. I imagine they chose the dog as a strong image from the show. I love it, personally. It’s fun, but also has a big heart. So will the production…I hope.
Which character in The Two Gentlemen of Verona is most like you and why? And which character would you like to be and why?
I don’t know. But I know that Proteus is a cad and a shit-heal and all too human. There is certainly a good deal of him that I find in myself and that I hope is forgivable in us both. I’d like to be Speed—he seems to take a lot of pleasure in life and brings it to many around him, even if it’s often at their expense.
Why did you want to play Proteus? And how do you relate to him? Do you play any other characters, and what have been the biggest challenges preparing and performing your role? What’s the best advice Ben and Jessie have given you that made your performance better?
I didn’t want to play Proteus, or not play him. But he’s a great challenge to portray. I’ve been Proteus at times in my life. I’ve also been Valentine and Julia and Speed at others. I’ve done things I regret and have begged forgiveness. I’ve pined for one who didn’t love or respect me and I’ve forgiven with all my heart. The biggest challenge is always to let each thing be what it is—to speak and inhabit that moment, and exactly that moment. It’s very challenging not to act one’s idea of a character or to try to portray all of one’s thoughts about a character, but to trust that a series of specific moments will add up to a rich and complex experience of the character for the audience.
Since you are the co-Artistic Director of Fiasco, along with Ben and Jessie, and you direct sometimes, what is it like having Jessie and Ben direct you? How is your directing style similar and/or different that theirs?
It’s a real challenge to keep my trap shut. This is the first time that I’m not co-directing a Fiasco play. That’s a change for everyone…I’m sure in many ways for the better. We each have very distinct styles. One of the things that defines Fiasco is that we share a common training, a common vocabulary and a common belief about actor-driven theater, but we are very different and unique individuals. We see things from different angles, somewhat different passions, have different metabolic rates in life and in what we like to see on stage. But the five other members of Fiasco are without a doubt the most thoughtful and inventive theater artists I know, and I trust them absolutely.
What is the best advice they have given you on playing your role? And what is the best advice you have given them on directing a scene or a performance?
I’m not about to claim to have given any “best” advice. The best moments as an actor, and I’ve had plenty with Ben and Jessie already on this show, are when the three of us are in there working on a moment…say, one of Proteus’ soliloquies, and we’re all in the flow, searching for the events and the truth together. Then I’m not being directed; we’re just all on a quest for Proteus.
How can audiences in 2014 relate to The Two Gentlemen of Verona and what do you want audiences to take with them after seeing your production at The Folger?
Ever felt mastered by your passions? You can relate to Two Gents. Ever feel like the servant of your passion, or jealousy or insecurity and find your self doing and saying things that seem not like your self? You can relate to Two Gents. Ever cheated or been cheated on? You can relate to Two Gents.
What advice would you have for a group of friends who went to school together, admired each other, and worked together who wanted to start a new theater company?
Let the work lead. Take baby steps. Bite off a little more than you can chew, but only a little. Find out how to create theater by creating it. Hear what you have to say by saying it. Ask many questions. Ask them of everything. We’ve discovered that the questions we pose are often more important than the answers we proffer.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona plays from April 17-May 25, 2014 at The Folger Theatre-201 East Capitol Street, SE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 554-7077, or purchase them online.
Fiasco Theater’s ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’ and ‘Cymbeline’ at Folger Theatre-Part 1: Director Ben Steinfeld.
Fiasco Theater’s ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’ and ‘Cymbeline’ at Folger Theatre-Part 2: Fiasco Theater Company’s Co-Artistic Director and Co-Founder Jessie Austrian.