By Veronika Gribanova
Ensemble is at the core of the training at Atlantic Acting School. This is best exemplified by Company class, when in the last year of conservatory, each graduating class forms their own theatre company under the supervision of Atlantic Theater Company. In Company class, you learn about how a theatre company is run and most importantly, you start to become one. That was how Floor Five Theatre Company was born.
We started by deciding on a theatre company model and electing leadership, including a Managing Director, Artistic Director, Associate Artistic Director, Marketing Director, Head of Development, Literary Manager, and General Manager. We chose our name — a nod to our origins, the fifth floor of the Google building, which currently functions as Atlantic Acting School’s home base. We then had to choose our first play.
Each graduating company is given Atlantic’s Stage 2 Theater for a week with the mission of producing their own show. We formed a Literary Committee and chose from a pool of 25 proposed plays. Choosing a play for 27 company members is challenging if not impossible, so I decided to write one and submit it to the company for consideration. The play, zounds!, was born. zounds! is an ensemble comedy about the Greek gods during the Trojan War. The title is an archaic expression, an abbreviation of “god’s wounds”. Once the play was chosen, we elected Kevin Mejia as Director and Tim Laschkolnig as Assistant Director and held auditions and callbacks. We then dove deep into rehearsal for 3 weeks.
Our challenges with zounds! were considerable. This would be the first time in the history of Atlantic Acting School that a company would put on a home-grown show, and there was some trepidation around that fact. This was a new play, a long play, featuring a cast of 18. We had three weeks of rehearsal time while we were still in classes. Once the rehearsal period was over, we spent 55 hours in the basement over the course of 4 days, building and doing tech on this massive production.
The company was in charge of everything — our MVP Camila Osorio even had to get fire-safety certified as House Manager. On the morning of opening night, we came in to run transitions, had our graduation ceremony, and then premiered the play. Every single person in the company rose to the occasion and juggled multiple jobs in order to make it to opening night.
The risk was ultimately worth it. We had a successful sold-out run and as a result, we are now taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe, with a larger budget and a longer run. Three of our company members are producing the show, including myself, Berenice Odriozola, and Ana Guzman Quintero, with Amanda Shi as Associate Producer. None of this would be possible without our training at Atlantic, where we were put to the test and came out on the other side victorious. We learned a lot about how to be a theatre company, but we also learned about ourselves.
In our individualistic and ego-driven culture, collaboration and connection is rare. Atlantic blessed us with these challenges. And it is a challenge. It is sitting in a room with 26 other artists in your theatre company and remembering why you decided to come together in the first place. It is remembering to meet each other again. It is listening. It is learning to be honest, to forgive, and to encourage one another. Every day is a new chance to wrestle with these challenges, and I’m grateful to Atlantic and to Floor Five for this chance.