Double Edge Theatre

The Annex Theater
October 28 – November 7, 2004
Thursday – Saturday 7:30 pm
Sunday - 2:30 and 7:30 pm

conceived and directed by Stacy Klein
created with Carlos Uriona (who plays Don Quixote), Matthew Glassman (who plays Sancho Panza),
and the Double Edge Theatre Ensemble, which includes Justin Handley as the Duke (Knight of the Mirrors), Joanna Wichowska as the Duchess, Hayley Brown as Altisidora and Richard Newman as Master Peter, the Puppeteer (Cervantes).
Music composed by Justin Handley.
Lighting design by ML Geiger. 

New York Debut for DOUBLE EDGE THEATRE with UNPOSSESSED, an adaptation of "DON QUIXOTE" into a visual performance spactacle company is in the Grotowski tradition and an American first-cousin to Poland's Gardzienice.

Double-Edge Theatre (www.doubleedgetheatre.org) from Ashfield, MA chose to adapt Cervantes' "The Adventures of Don Quixote" to the stage after the events of September 11, 2001. The impulse was, according to director Stacy Klein, to answer the question of whether it is still possible to have idealism. The company is rooted in the traditions of Grotowski and South American street theater, so this adaptation is no Broadway-styled "Man of La Mancha." It is titled "The UnPOSSESSED" and it dramatizes the book in a style that is primarily imagistic, filled with outdoor-like spectacle, trapeze tricks, actors rotating in huge gyroscopic cow troughs, songs and very little text. It is the troupe's New York debut.

Director Stacy Klein was primarily trained by Rena Mirecka, the only woman in Grotowski's original lab. Carlos Uriona, her primary collaborator since 1996 in Double Edge, was founder of Argentina's Diablomundo, an outdoor circus theater which specialized in Street Theater styles. Double Edge's work is characterized by an earthy ritualism, gleeful athleticism and goofy peasant-like spiritual humor evocative of Poland's Gardzienice, which Klein describes as "of the same tribe." Gardzienice, coincidentally, is returning to La MaMa with a new production April 7 to 24, 2005.

Audiences come to the rural home of Double Edge Theatre, a farm on a two-lane road northwest of Holyoke, MA, for theatrical spectacles with visceral, forceful images. The Boston Globe reported, "Double Edge produces an experiential, highly physical kind of theater, long on dance, movement, and music, short on text. Puppetry and circus skills also play a role….The major works are years in the making and emerge from the actors' personal growth and their relationship to the community they're working in." It is the only resident theater of its type on the East Coast.
A good artistic history of the company is available online, in an article by Sigrid Bauschinger, at: http://www.doubleedgetheatre.org/article.php3?ArticleID=48. The article includes discussion of the company's methods, its production history, and the influence of Polish theater upon Stacy Klein.

"The UnPOSSESSED" sticks pretty closely to the twelve chapters of "Don Quixote" it is based on. Like the characters of the novel, "The UnPOSSESSED" makes a unique construction of the world to determine who is the illusion and who is the reality. Although the piece was inspired by the experience of 9/11, there is no 9/11 imagery. There is, however, a lot of aerial "silk work" and acrobatics. Swaths of white fabric hang from the lighting grid and drape across the warm-toned floor, sometimes doubling as acrobatic tools and costume pieces. Performers swing from the rafters and climb through the audience, using the entire theater as their playing space. In gigantic circular metal cow troughs, like the ones on sale at Agway, actors roll and spin gyroscopically. (These huge wheels were set on fire and then dunked in a lake last summer's production in Ashfield.) The piece is scored from beginning to end and there is a lot of song, all composed by company member Justin Handley. The design has a rustic look, reflecting the farm settings of its origin. After a workshop production in Boston, a blogger wrote, "(the) element of actual physical danger made the show almost compulsively watchable. Everything flowed so naturally, and spontaneously. It just reminded me of what good, spectacle based theatre can do."
The piece is also partly a commentary on Stacy Klein's personal creative style. In an interview with The Boston Globe, she said, "For many years, during 'The Song Trilogy' [a wide-ranging work on Jewish historiography, Rilke and Bruno Schulz, which occupied the troupe for ten years], I felt I was possessed. People nicely said I was intense, and my work was intense. They probably meant I was crazy." "The UnPOSSESSED," originally created in 2003, was Double Edge's first production based on a` book. They have been doing a book a year as an indoor-outdoor spectacle. In 2002, it was "Manuscripts Found at Saragossa," a novel of 66 intertwined stories by the Polish ethnographer and historian Jan Potoki. This year, it was Bulgakov's "Master and Margarita."
The company was originally founded in 1982 in Boston by Stacy Klein as a women's theatre group. It has evolved greatly since then. Klein spent five months with Rena Mirecka in Poland and Sardinia in 1985 and wrote her dissertation on Eugenio Barba of Denmark's Odin Teatret in 1987. She has collaborated with Wlodzimierz Staniewski and his company, Gardzienice, since 1986. Published accounts refer to Ms. Klein's overall approach as anti-rational: it struggles against a society that hinders creativity through confining structures, cultural stereotypes, and ideologies. Double Edge moved to the Berkshire foothills in 1995. The company's work always invites comparison with Gardzienice, but it is actually more image-driven and much more "female." The troupe maintains close ties with the Eastern European performance community, through programs including Ex-CHANGE, its summer training and performance program through which Double Edge has brought European performers- this year from Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria- to learn the company's movement techniques and collaborative development process, to create a work together, and then perform it with Double Edge. (This is the third year for that program; it's also the last.) Other exchange programs have included Republic of Dreams (1992-8), a Central European/Jewish-American exchange held in Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary, and the Spiral Mirror project (1997), a US/Latin American performance and training project which has brought four guest artists and three troupes to "the farm" for three months to one year.

American companies in this mold are rare. Dell 'Arte, a group in Blue Lake, CA, is a little like Double Edge. It describes itself as a physical theater and has had a school for 25 years. It is fairly well known on the West Coast and does a significant amount of work in Europe.

Ashfield, MA is 20 minutes from Northampton, home of Smith College. The farm, away from by the busy-ness and noise of the city, it is a place where you can find out where your vision is, Klein says. Company members tend the vegetables they live on four months out of each year. There are two performance spaces and housing for 30 people. Originally, the company only intended to rehearse there, then tour. Mirabile dictu, as soon as they started performing there, they started selling out to the five colleges in the area. Ashfield was a haven where the Salem Witches were allowed to settle in the old days. Later, it was a principal stop on the Underground Railroad. In the '60s and '70s, it attracted many leading artists of the gay community of New England. Outsiders have always found it a safe haven to come to. It was a one-store town, but now it has added a pizza place and a hardware store. Stacy Klein feels that Western Massachusetts holds the original values of the Commonwealth: allowing individual liberty is very clear there, as is the sense that "you can be different and do whatever you want to do."

Coinciding with this production at La MaMa is another one built in Massachusetts: Thunder Bay Ensemble's "Sea Change" and "Arctic Circle" (October 28 to November 4, First Floor Theater). That company hails from East Otis, in the Berkshires, and specializes in imagistic theater with unusual music, primarily the vocal pyrotechnics of Ed Herbst. "Sea Change" and "Arctic Circle" are inspired by the world of surrealist painter René Magritte. They are designed by Obie award-winning Japanese designer Jun Maeda and WindRose Morris, with lighting design by Bessie award winner Paul Clay. Thunder Bay is returning to La MaMa after a nine year absence. This company is also closely tied to Eastern Europe; it is currently engaged in a three-way performance project with Artus Company/Gabor Goda from Budapest, Hungary and Nona Ciobanu's Toaca from Bucharest, Romania.

"The UnPOSSESSED" is conceived and directed by Stacy Klein. It was created with Carlos Uriona, (who plays Don Quixote), Matthew Glassman (who plays Sancho Panza) and the Double Edge Theatre Ensemble, which includes Justin Handley as the Duke (Knight of the Mirrors), Joanna Wichowska as the Duchess, Hayley Brown as Altisidora and Richard Newman as Master Peter, the Puppeteer (Cervantes). Music is composed by Justin Handley. Lighting design is by ML Geiger.

A workshop production of "The UnPOSSESSED" earlier this year, part of the US/ Central European project Ex-CHANGE, was funded by the Trust for Mutual Understanding, also in part by a Theatre Communications Group/Doris Duke/Andrew Mellon Foundation New Generations Grant, and by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state arts agency.

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