‘The Art of Facing Fear’ examines life in quarantine for 5,555 days

Perhaps one of the most important life lessons I have ever personally learned was that the human mind is basically held back from moving forward in the decision-making process by the universal human emotions of fear and confusion. 

Such is the theme of THE ART OF FACING FEAR, a one-hour virtual play offering a wildly surreal and cathartic experience, set in a possible not-too-distant dystopian future with the quarantine at 5,555 days. 

We are invited in to meet a diverse ensemble of individuals dealing with the stress and fear of being confined at home without the human need for physical contact possible. 

As they share effects of the Coronavirus on their everyday lives, a sense of the encroaching authoritarianism and intolerance which threatens our lives, liberty, and identity as free people of the world is brought into focus as they wonder when or if things will ever return to normal. And just what is normal anyway? And to whom?

Opening in São Paulo, Brazil to audiences of as many as 600 viewing devices per night, and followed by an African/European run featuring a cast from three different continents, “The Art of Facing Fear” has now arrived in the United States and runs Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Sunday, Sept. 27. This U.S. production features a cast of actors performing from across the U.S., including California, New York, Oregon, Nevada, Georgia, and Alaska, most of whom have never met in person but have managed to create strong connections with each other to the point of connecting down to our basic and universal humanity which unites us all. 

And that is apparent in every scene of the play with each version of the script tailored to reflect the countries in which it is performed, pushing the boundaries of digital theatre.

Written by Ivam Cabral and Rodolfo García Vázquez, founders of São Paulo’s experimental theatre group, Os Satyros, and directed by Vázquez who has helmed all three productions of the piece to date, each has been developed with the actors bringing characters to life as they share not only his words but their own personal observations. 

“We don’t know each other, but somehow our humanity in this pandemic makes us all very close to each other,” Vázquez said. “There is a feeling of the human community and that we all belong to the same race and we are experiencing versions of the same thing right now.” 

Produced by Company of Angels and Rob Lecrone, in co-production with Os Satyros (Brazil) and Darling Desperados (Sweden), the production is blessed with a heartfelt and soul-searching ensemble of 16 performers. 

And if I had the space, I would go into each of their extraordinary contributions to the overwhelming success of this production. Perhaps the most shocking to me was watching Rogelio Douglas III wrapping his entire head with plastic wrap to the point of gasping “I can’t breathe,” the last words spoken by George Floyd. So authentic and emotionally deep-felt, I found myself really worried Rogelio would suffocate before he came to his senses and tore a hole in the wrapping to allow him to catch his breath. I cannot quote the words he said, but I can tell you it was one of the most provocative and theatrically confrontational moments I have ever witnessed, both in a theater as well as on-screen, listening to a black man speak with brutal honesty about what it means to live in the world from his perspective.  

Audience members are challenged before the play even begins into revealing via the chat mode what they are most afraid of right now, many of which are incorporated into the play itself as the cast talks about their own fears. 

Thus, the audience is drawn into the characters’ worlds of isolation as if it is us being presented in this brilliant theatrical production. I hope you will allow yourself to open your mind and hear the truth being spoken in the creative new medium of virtual theater, presented by talented artists on the cusp of artistic greatness. 

“The Art of Facing Fear” tickets are available on a sliding scale up to an hour prior to each performance at http://companyofangels.org/aoff, with the link to join the digital room live performance automatically emailed to you a half hour prior to showtime on Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through Sunday, Sept. 27.  Be advised there is strong language, simulated drug use, implied violence, and a scene with strobe light effect.