Double Edge Theatre teaches acting students to fly

Nov. 15, 2010

Brock Kilgore
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Double Edge Theatre’s three-week residency at UCCS will culminate in the debut of “The Chagall Tales” at the Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theatre in University Hall on Thursday. During the last few weeks, during preparation for the show, UCCS theater and music students have had the unique opportunity to train and create with members of a theater company that specializes in living the creative process.

Kevin Landis, theater director for the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Department, wrote his dissertation on Double Edge Theatre – and on the farm in rural Massachusetts where the cast and crew actually “live” their particular brand of full emersion theatre.

About Double Edge’s residency at UCCS, Landis said, “The idea is not really that we are presenting a play. It’s not going to be ‘Hamlet.’ It’s a process of imaginative work. The reason[s] Double Edge is here [are] one, is they are a great company, but two, is they are working with the advanced actors at UCCS in their course on physical theatre.”

Physical theater is unlike all other feats of the stage. Actors are challenged by rolling around on giant spools, spinning on fabric silks and dealing with circus objects and a giant moving tent.

Representing Double Edge Theatre here at UCCS is actor, playwright and clarinetist Matthew Glassman. He said, “Our process is to do original theater that is really based on the autonomy of the actor. The actor, not only as an interpreter of a script of a playwright, but the actor as [the] artist that creates and imagines, and brings to life that imagination. They need to be highly tuned-in with the other actors, so when we train, we are training the group to work together. To learn how to breathe together, to work in [a] hyper-aware and hyper-connected way.”

Glassman described a situation where intense physical practice and the creative process are intimately connected, “The process comes from physical training, where this is the process of becoming tuned and connected and aware of oneself and each other. Physical training leads to improvisation, and the writing of the performance happens in the course of improvisation as well as the creation of what we call ‘atudes,’ or short studies. The actors are also researching a lot outside of training and bringing their own proposals. Then that material that gets generated gets put back into the improvisation and the training, and a type of work that takes it beyond the realm of ideas and into a much larger, all-encompassing, living, breathing world.”

The play that the advanced acting class will perform will be loosely based on the Belarusian French artist Marc Chagall. Glassman explained, “The work of Chagall is a dream world. There’s flight, and there are transformations, and there’s color and music, and myth and story. It’s really important to have a process that can enable the actor to really have their ideas and imaginations take flight.”

Chagall is the central focus, but Glassman continued, “It is going to be based on several stories from ‘The Arabian Nights’ and from the Russian folktale or the folklore surrounding ‘The Firebird,’ as well as drawing a little teeny bit from Chagall’s biography. These were stories that inspired him. We are going to be taking the spirit of his creativity and his art for ourselves. Not to represent his work, nor to represent the stories as he did. But to sort of dream the stories in a way that maybe he was dreaming, but in our own way.”