Working in the Theatre: Double Edge Theatre

[Music] [Ensemble singing and chanting] [Ensemble continues singing and chanting] I created Double Edge in 1982 in Boston.
It was a feminist theater at first. We spent about ten years going through
Central Europe exploring culture and that led to a decision to leave the city;
thinking that the city was part of a cultural obliteration. We decided to move to a rural area where we could work and be part of a community. I started with Double Edge well over twenty years ago when they were based in Boston. It seems sort of a natural progression of the training, I believe, in some manner. Taking first the physical work and then the work of converting the farm into a theatrical place, sort of was an extension of the work and sort of made everything much more concrete. We started performing here and we built the barn and subsequently we decided we wanted to do this outdoor project which kept growing
and growing and growing. [Music] The Summer Spectacle work we’ve been developing since 2002. The first year we did it we did three performances, we had about forty five people come in total to all three shows, we used about three locations around the
farm. Today we use about nine locations around
the farm. Three thousand people come throughout the summer and there’s very little separation between where the human element, the design element begins and where the landscape ends. The actors inhabit the trees; the design is
integrated into the streams, into the hills. It’s almost like an artistic permaculture. Typically during the day, in the summer, we’ll get together in the morning and see what needs to be done in the difference spheres of the work. So
there’s the rehearsal, which are the priorities that we need to work on and
then there’s also the different tech projects that need to happen; keeping the landscaping, which means setting up the different set pieces
and props for the show and then there’s, of course, the cooking and the day-to-day maintenance. As it gets closer to the performance
time, we have a training as a group, preparing ourselves physically and
vocally and finding how to really work together. Through meeting your body is of interest
to your whole self; you’re encountering what you don’t know about yourself and about the people that you’re with. The idea is to find the limits within
yourself that often can be very specific and physical and other times can be more mysterious. The process for creating a new work at Double Edge Theatre is, for us, long. The training is our core for everything;
whether I’m a writer, a designer, a technical director, or an actor
or singer, musician, the training is still the kind of baseline and that holds everything together. [Ensemble singing and chanting] And then we put our costumes on and then
we perform and after which, which is very important to us, we also have an informal gathering of their audience so we get to talk to them after the performance. [Distant music and chattering] Over these past thirteen years as we’ve been doing Summer Spectacles, we’ve always adapted from a pre-existing piece of literature or myth; The Odyssey, 1,001 Nights. But finally, after many years of wanting to do a Spectacle rooted in Latin American culture, specifically the work and history and culture of ensemble member Carlos, coming from Argentina. Once a Blue Moon is our first original Spectacle. [Singing in Spanish] The day I left began like this… quiet. A few musicos were strumming their instruments. While the sun rises, so does the rhythm of the day. Introducing to me yet once again, the
characters of my village, Agua Santa. “Once in a blue moon” is is something
that happens once in a while. The story is about this village and the
characters of the village. The theme, as I see it, is about memory and the memory of this one person played by Carlos, who’s reconciling himself with his life. It’s not about facts or how it exactly happened but about how he’s remembering, embellishing, kind of reinventing the story of his relationship with his own memories of that village and those people. We are here today, gone tomorrow but time marches on! [Ensemble singing and chanting] We actually do a lot of singing in other
languages. And our other previous Spectacles, where we were doing The Odyssey, we were singing songs in Georgian and Greek. By singing and performing in different languages we are able to be more present in the rhythms and it’s not just sort of re-creating or mimicking something. I think it’s some way of embodying language and poetry. When I was born, I was a bird. I entered this world and my mother’s last wail faded into the silence, and in that silence, I was there, perched on a tree, for just a moment. She came here to dream me into reality, to a dream a soul who would merit participation in the universe. When she dreamt of my beating heart,
I was born. It’s a celebratory work even with its
tinge of sadness in the storytelling. It wants to find the best of our species and it wants to invite people into all of these positive possibilities; of dream, of creativity, and of play. And we really wanted to delve into
Latin American magic realism. This is a river of time, where time is like a ship that has crushed against the rocks. My mother picked flowers. She listened to them whisper and sometimes she whispered back. My character, yes, it’s me. I do have this sort of Latin American narrative in myself. It’s a way of living and a way of perceiving and transmitting reality that we have in Latin America, where the supernatural is very present and the exaggeration is just a way of sort of trying to embrace the emotional narrative. [Drumming and hollering] I welcome you to Los en Loras and I have the pleasure to introduce you to the star of our cabaret, my friend, Melisio! [Audience laughing and applauding] [Singing in Spanish] [Music] Since high school I was engaging in union movements and I was always very interested in people owning their work. For some reason, someone in my group of friends said, “You know actually you would be really good in theatre, you know, your activism and your capacity. You should do theatre.” And I started in 1978 organizing groups that will come together and try to have a long-term process but also own the production, which
I do think is crucial and that’s one of my goals here. I think we managed to have that; we own our own production, we are producers of the art we make. So every actor is an owner and and it works sort of like a cooperative, in that sense. The big goal for Double Edge is that it is completely self-sustained. We have a food system to reduce the cost of the food, which includes our farming and our gardening, which keeps growing each year. We have various different energy schemes
to reduce our energy footprint and we have a whole network of people in this community who give. They may be giving money, it may be membership. As well as that, it may be giving
resources or labor or time or advice. [Music] [Ensemble singing in Spanish] The farmers market is very important to
Double Edge. We’ve been doing this for years. It used to be part of how we would gain interest for the performance and sell tickets and now we we don’t need to do that so much but we’re still committed to being here with our community. [Singing in Spanish continues] Stacey has brought a very clear and articulate philosophy which he has called a “living culture” and this idea of a culture where a community is animated by the the work of the theatre, by the work of the artist. Where there is an exchange that is ongoing and porous between the community and the artists; that our daily lives intersect and there are blurred lines between the art and the life. [Music] We each have roles in the administration. We each have roles in the maintaining and caring of the facilities. We have roles in the technical side and the design side and the actorly side. I think it’s rooted in a vision that you can both create the right conditions to live and the right conditions to create. [Music] We have communities in Central Europe, we have communities in Baltimore, we have people in Chicago and we do repeated, long-term projects over years, twenty years, twenty five years. At the same time as we’re doing that, we’re also working on Spectacles, like in Norway where we spent a month there and we developed the community by bringing people, by letting people see what we were doing, by working with people and then the performance, which is kind of the feather on the cap of this kind of work. You see often actors that spend a lot of time waiting tables and then they end up quitting because the truth of the matter is that if you look at the amount of people that want to be artists in the theatre arena, ninety five percent of those people cannot make it. I think that if I’m going to be out instead of waiting and waiting tables, I’ll just try to create something that can work and it allows me to do my job as an actor and also function within the ethics that I want to promote in a society. And to make decisions about the impact of my work in the culture that I’m immersed in. I had a very unique journey to Double Edge, although I would say everyone in the company, I think, has come here on a very unique path. I was looking for a an artistic home where I could really focus on my art, where I could focus on my relationship and my curiosity about how to work with community. Where I could focus on what it meant to be healthy, which, for me, was how do you eat food that’s grown? How do you maintain some form of physical practice? How do you maintain a connection to your art? And with the combination of the lifestyle a Double Edge, as well as the training practice, I do feel like that’s been the core of my sustainability. I am from Bulgaria originally and seven and a half years ago, I came for my first workshop here and I didn’t know what it was, because I was trained as a dancer and it wasn’t dance, but it was very physical and I was just so curious about how that could be theatre, because I related that very much to text. So I came back right after for a three month student program here and then I ended up doing a two year apprenticeship and then I joined the ensemble in 2011. [Actors rehearsing dialogue] I was a father at a very young age
and when I graduated college, it didn’t seem like I should be a starving artist
and be a father. Coming here and seeing that there was an approach to sort of ownership of one’s conditions, to make one’s own work over a long period of time, really drew me in because I was trying to figure out how to survive, support my my son and combine this with an artistic research. This offered a new model that I had never encountered before. I ended up coming with a friend of mine and we did a training one summer in 2005 and that kind of blew my mind. I went back to London, became a fireman in London, and then someone gave me a call here and asked if I was interested in coming back for a summer. So then I did, and then I stayed. I started designing actually as an assistant here with a Polish designer and this was the process of gaining
the responsibility in some sort of way. I try to design things that I would like to use myself. There’s the question of lightness in theater; the lighter you make the thing, the easier it’s going to be to operate. If you have a heavy design prop,
it’s hard to to deal with it. There’s no separation between your life
and work here. There was a lot of things I didn’t know about myself that I learned here and just allowed me to be more free. [Music] There’s the performance that the audience sees and then there’s this other performance,
which the actors live. It’s in the woods, in the stream, it’s in the lake. It’s all these very strange scenarios one would find themself in to make this other performance that
the audience sees possible. So whether you’re knee-deep in mud, holding up a puppet at exactly the right time, or you’re running across the guy wire in order to get to the other side without being seen by the audience, or there’s people digging tunnels to get from one place to another there’s really crazy, crazy stories to how the second performance works. [Drumming and ensemble chanting] This type of work does not survive easily. It only survives based on a multiplicity of interactions. We see that in this relationship as very powerful with our local, rural hill towns
community. The community aspect of this place and this work is very important to us. I think it’s at the core of what we do. I think of it as something very ancient. This very basic idea that people can work together and create something larger than themselves, if they put their efforts together. [Music] The past is not something fixed. It can change. Not by erasing its darkness, but by adding light to embellish it, each time a little more. After the hopelessness, after the tragic
coup d’état in Argentina, sometimes one needs to regroup inside of one’s self and find the courage and the strength, the fortitude to say, “What am I going to do here? I mean, people are being killed, right and left. I’m about to be killed.” Try to look for the ways that you can put up a fight, that is not a suicidal fight. I thought that creating experiences like this bring about the initiative and incentive for people to strive and do something different with their lives. I think it’s a way of healing one’s self and healing one’s self also helps the society heal. [Ensemble singing] If I had some advice, I would say look into how you can produce your own work and then how can you get together with people that are in the same boat and do something together. I think you need to gather courage, because everything will tend to appear as impossible, but it is possible. [Ensemble singing continues]

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