Five members of Double Edge Theatre traveled from Massachusetts last month to take up a residency with advanced drama and music students at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. After three weeks of work, they'll perform The Chagall Tales, a play inspired by the paintings of Belarusian-French artist Marc Chagall and the stories of the Arabian Nights.
And that's all we really know about the one-hour performances, because they're still being created.
"The sense of the unexpected is a real one and part of the magic," writes Matthew Glassman, Double Edge lead actor and co-director, in an e-mail.
The company was invited by UCCS assistant professor of theater Kevin Landis, who considers Double Edge to be "one of the great laboratory theaters in the country." Laboratory theater, or "devised theater," results in performances that are completely original because "the work is based on the process and the individuals creating it," as Landis writes in an e-mail.
Actors who work with Double Edge have the freedom to script their own lines, as well as compose their own music and lyrics, and create their own sets and costumes. Glassman worked with the UCCS students on their collaborations, as well as encouraging physical training in preparation for the performances.
"Double Edge (rightly) believes that an actor is an athlete, and that true imaginative creation comes from intense physical involvement and labor," writes Landis.
The members of Double Edge who live on the Farm — a rural, 100-acre outfit that serves as its home base — train like athletes, running and doing yoga and martial arts, among other physical activities. This way, they can incorporate acrobatics or dance, if they desire, into their performances. But also as Glassman writes, "I think it is about meeting and overcoming limits to access a deeper creativity, awareness, energy."
Founded in 1982, the company has received numerous awards for its work in keeping this type of theater alive; it's perpetually at risk, since most audiences won't pay for an experimental show with no plot preview.
"Devised performance is a scary proposition for theatres that are chiefly concerned with the bottom line," writes Landis. "Double Edge has made that sort of a theatre a reality in Massachusetts, but there are few companies anywhere that take these sorts of risks."