Faction of Fools Theatre Company announces new Co-Directors

Francesca Chilcote and Kathryn Zoerb succeed Paul Reisman, who steps down after three seasons as Producing Artistic Director.

At a time when theater companies around the country must push back production schedules, their missions are amplified to plan future productions that will uplift, transform, and heal. At Faction of Fools, this means embracing change and transformation. Accordingly, the company and its Board of Directors have recently announced the appointment of Francesca Chilcote and Kathryn Zoerb as the company’s new Co-Artistic Directors.

Kathryn Zoerb and Francesca Chilcote.

Board Co-Presidents Ralph and Denise Perrino revealed: “We welcome Kathryn Zoerb and Francesca Chilcote with much enthusiasm and anticipation. Kathryn and Francesca bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the company. We know they will provide the perfect foundation for the next decade of Commedia dell’Arte for theatergoers throughout the Washington metropolitan area. We wish our past Artistic Directors a special thank-you for building a company guided by intelligence and humor. What the world needs now is some serious foolishness!”

I knew after my first production with Faction of Fools that I had found my people,said Zoerb. The productions have been among the most joyful and rewarding of my career. Now, as Co-Artistic Director, I cannot describe how thrilled I am to support the incredible amount of talent, hard work, hilarity, and ingenuity this ensemble possesses.

For both Zoerb and Chilcote, having a history with Commedia dellArte drew them to Faction of Fools, a fitting home for artists committed to specialized actor training and collaboration. They both studied Commedia at the Accademia dellArte in Arezzo, Italy, where Chilcote earned her MFA in Physical Theatre, studying with Maestro Marcello Bartoli. Zoerb, who completed the undergraduate semester program at the Accademia dell’Arte, continued her training at ArscomicA in Reggio Emilia, Italy, under Maestro Antonio Fava. Chilcote and Zoerb, previously Director of Education and Director of Marketing respectively, were active company members and performed in a number of Faction productions. During their joint appearances in the The Cherry Orchard and Helen Hayes–nominated The Great Commedia Hotel Murder Mystery, they formed a strong artistic and personal relationship.

Francesca Chilcote (left) and Kathryn Zoerb (right) in 2018’s ‘The Cherry Orchard.’ Director: Paul Reisman, Set: Ethan Sinnott, Costumes: Kitt Crescenzo, Lighting: Kristin A. Thompson. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

At the core of the style of Commedia is the prowess of the actor, and cultivating and showcasing our companys many talents is of utmost import to us,says Chilcote. I am inspired by the models of the original Commedia troupes, which were traditionally led by a capocomico, who set the agenda for the company, but did not necessarily act as the sole executive of all decisions.Zoerb and Chilcote will be joined in leadership by Danny Cackley as Associate Artistic Director, along with the Executive Fools—company members who have taken on a larger responsibility in running the company—including John Bellomo, Colin Connor, Natalie Cutcher, and Jack Novak. 

“The study of Commedia goes hand-in-hand with ensemble theater practice, which is an unusual way to run a theater company in this day and age,” says former Artistic Director Toby Mulford. “Kathryn and Francesca’s deep background in ensemble practice will make it possible for the company to embody the true spirit of Commedia.”

Chilcote and Zoerb succeed Paul Reisman, who steps down after three seasons as Producing Artistic Director and ten years of contribution to the company on staff and on stage. Reisman notes, It is with great joy and profound gratitude that I look over the ten years I was involved with Faction. I couldn’t be prouder of the paths we forged and the art (highbrow and lowbrow alike) that we have brought to students, families, and audiences of all ages and abilities across the DMV. I’m looking forward to what the future holds for Faction in its second decade, and I can’t wait to continue my work within our resilient DC theater community.” 

Reisman made a mark as a director of bold Commedia dellArte interpretations of classics including Merchant of Venice, The Cherry Orchard, and Henry V, and as a performer in such groundbreaking productions as Romeo & Juliet and A Commedia Christmas Carol. His original scripts, Pinocchio! (Helen Hayes nomination for Outstanding Production, Theatre for Young Audiences), Foolish Fairytales, and The Great Commedia Hotel Murder Mystery (Helen Hayes nomination for Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding Original New Play or Musical), explored the great versatility of the style. 

Founder and former Artistic Director Matthew R. Wilson said, When we started 11 years ago, I never could have imagined the amazing people who would come make this company better. What a joy it has been to watch the Faction grow and thrive under the leadership of Toby and Paul, and I can’t think of better people to take the wheel for Faction 4.0 than the dynamic duo of Kathryn Zoerb and Francesca Chilcote!” 

“It’s overwhelming how much talent is in this group of Fools.” Zoerb said. “I can’t wait to see what these inspiring folks cook up. What we will create, what we will learn, and how many smiles we will crack.”

You can stay in touch with upcoming projects on the Faction of Fools website.

Faction of Fools Theatre Company‘s mission is to entertain, educate and elucidate through the practice and performance of Commedia dell’Arte. FOF uses Commedia to bring out the truest sense of what a play is on the page, in order to rediscover classics and create dynamic new work. Their work embodies the spirit of Commedia—traditional yet innovative, international yet familiar, and classical yet accessible. In their performances, actor training, international initiatives, and educational outreach, Commedia dell’Arte is theater at its best: physical discipline, spontaneous imagination, collaborative energy, and joyous wonder.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made on the Faction of Fools website.


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