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Ashfield’s Double Edge theater put 20th century on view

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— Double Edge Theater has been awarded a $125,000 grant from the New England Foundation for the Arts to support the development of a new work, “The Grand Parade of the 20th Century,” as well as its touring to Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Moscow.

One of just seven projects selected from more than 100 around the country, the Double Edge production has been in the works for more than a year, according to Executive Director Matthew Glassman, one of six core actors in the piece directed and designed by founding Artistic Director Stacy Klein.

“This is an incredible grant,” Klein said. “I only know one other funding opportunity for creating work.”

Because half of the funding goes toward taking the work on tour, she said, “For the first time, Double Edge could get paid what we really need to get paid to tour, so we wouldn’t be losing money on a tour. That’s pretty awesome.”

The high-visibility grant also provides a NEFA panelist to work with the theater company on its project, said Weaver, adding that the foundation was impressed by Double Edge’s rural nature and its longevity.

The foundation’s National Theater Project promotes “development and touring of contemporary, artist-led collaborative, ensemble and devised theater works,” according to the Boston-based NEFA. It’s conceived of as a “full system of support for contemporary, devised theater.”

“This is really important for us,” said Glassman of the funding, which will not only develop the work but help present it for its world premiere at Washington’s Arena Stage and the Golden Mask Festival in Moscow before bringing it home to Ashfield next April as part of the culmination of Double Edge’s 30th year.

“These are some of the only grants that support directly artistic development and collaboration with presenters. It’s trying to fund work that couldn’t happen without this type of support. There’s some amount of experimentation.” “This is really a swirling mash-up of the century, ending with the Bush-Gore election in 2000,” Glassman says.

“We’re looking at this through the lens of Marc Chagall, with some of his sensibilities, so there’s juxtaposition and simultaneity, there’s elements of puppetry, of flight, of the circus.”

According to the theater company’s web site, the hour-long work “depicts major events of the 20th century in a theatrical style inspired by Chagall’s kaleidoscopic vision of humanity at play, at war, and at rest. Trapeze, circus, dance, projections, and popular culture fill the height and breadth of the stage in a spectacle of history populated by people and animals in acts of grace and destruction.”

In this wordless theater piece with a “soundscape” by Russian composer Alexander Bakshi, the site says, “Time both shrinks and expands as the 20th century unfolds in a dreamlike rush of juxtapositions that include the ecstasy of landing on the moon, the frenzy of war, the skilled escapes of Houdini, the atomic bomb, Kennedy’s assassination, and Hitler’s brutalization of Europe ... ‘The Grand Parade’ is about individual and collective experience of a period of history in which people developed knowledge that produced both great development and massive destruction.”

Glassman said $65,000 of the foundation’s grant goes to cover 20 to 25 percent of the project’s development, leading to its premiere, and the remainder goes to presenters to cover costs for touring.

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