Double Edge and the Town of Ashfield: 25 Years of Living Culture

Double Edge Theatre is celebrating 25 years in Ashfield this year, and as part of this profound milestone we asked several citizens of Ashfield to share their thoughts as together we look back at these years of art and community — what we call Living Culture.

Photo by Carrie Cranston from the Ashfield Town Spectacle.

Phil Pless is a long-time member of DE who performed with us at The Ashfield Town Spectacle and Culture Fair. He is a real estate agent who facilitated the sale of the former Fitzgerald Dairy Farm to Double Edge.

I first met Stacy and members of Double Edge in 1993. It was a winter day and all these city folk wanted to walk the land of this dairy farm I had for sale. It was a cold day with over a foot of snow on the ground. They had older style long wool coats and poor footwear, but we trudged around. I shook my head wondering what they’re thinking. Four months later they purchased this farm and set up shop.

25 years later, and the vision they had that cold winter day has morphed into the wonderful campus where Double Edge performs and trains today. That vision and their endless creativity and energy has made them an integral part of Ashfield. They lure thousands of theatergoers to town each summer. Those patrons eat at our restaurants and stay at our inns helping the local economy.

Double Edge and its actors have bought several properties in town, support local businesses and have worked second jobs in town. They contribute in so many ways to improving our hilltown community.

Photo by Bill Hughes from The Ashfield Town Spectacle.

Delta Carney is a long-time supporter of DE and an Ashfield hero and elder leader. She is the recipient of Double Edge’s 2019 John and Mary Snow Living Culture Award for her work toward improving life in Ashfield.

I have had nothing but delights with DE. The shows are inventive, thought provoking, and entertaining beyond measure. Each time I am at DE is an adventure. All of the people involved are professionals and are heart-warming to know. I am pulled into each and every play I have seen, as if I were part of the production. I am joyful that DE is so close by and will always be filled with gratitude for all that they constantly give to my town.

Ed Branson with our Fall Immersion Artists in 2017. Photo by Kim Chin-Gibbons.

Ed Branson is a glass artist who has collaborated with Double Edge on several projects.

If imagination is an important quality of community, and I think it is, then Ashfield benefits deeply from being home to Double Edge Theatre. Whether I am helping Double Edge prepare for a performance or am enjoying an event from the audience I can feel the power of freedom, imagination, integrity, and creativity. I believe they are making a difference in our world and they make an extra effort to make sure their art is available to people from all economic levels. They have reached out and bonded with the town and the people of Ashfield and we are better for it. Double Edge helps us understand ourselves. The people of Ashfield have a deeper sense of our history and culture through the generous work of Double Edge.

Photo by Bill Hughes from The Ashfield Town Spectacle.

Betty Stewart performed with Double Edge during The Ashfield Town Spectacle and Culture Fair, and volunteers regularly at DE.

My name is Betty Stewart and I have lived in Ashfield for over forty years and have never experienced anything like the Double Edge Ashfield Town Spectacle. My grandsons and I had a tremendously uplifting experience! The facilitators were supportive, encouraging, and treated everyone like family. My grandson Owen equated going on the bungees to flying and would do it again in a heartbeat. He especially liked that he could walk on walls, jump in trees, and do weird gymnastics that you can’t do on the ground. My other grandson Eli said it was great fun and he would definitely do it again. I enjoyed spending time with my grandsons and making great friends — it was a wonderful event that multiple generations enjoyed together. I highly recommend any of the Double Edge Productions as they are all great. Happy 25th Anniversary Double Edge.

Photo by Ellis Anderson.

Nan Parati is a writer and artist, and famously the now retired owner and operator of Elmer’s Store, an Ashfield institution. Nan has collaborated with DE over many years in several different ways.

It’s the Rhythms!

The rhythm of the work, what it speaks, what it says, what it feels and makes you feel but more,

It’s the rhythms themselves!

Remember the song they sang while building the boat in The Odyssey?

I wanted to wear that on my belt all day long so I could hear it and build myself to its rhythm. Every day. I begged for a cast album.

And the revolution in Once a Blue Moon. The soldiers marching, singing, the drums, the drums.

And the Shakers of last summer! Out in the field, so far away, all you see, all you hear is the rhythm of their dance as they came toward us and surrounded us with a rhythm that made us want to convert.

“I want to see them again!” I said. “And again! Every day! Every evening! All year long!”

I never get my wish.

Even back in the day, back in the early, early, early days, back in Boston, back when she was just getting started, Stacy breathed a rhythm the rest of us thought was just the subway.

I saw a performance she did back when she was so young, so young, I saw it on tape. A young woman — in a trance? I didn’t see the whole piece, only an excerpt. But moving to a rhythm I wanted to feel the next day and the next. I’ve looked for it on old stuff. Looked for that rhythm. How do you do that, Stacy? You are the common denominator. You are the soul. You are the rhythm.

Photo by Kim Chin-Gibbons

Lily Kulp is a musician and high school student who has worked with Double Edge in community parades and on The Ashfield Town Spectacle.

Whenever I think of Double Edge I get a sort of tingle in my chest. I loved doing the town spectacle a few years ago (stilting- what! So cool) and playing in parades. The energy and music and everything about it is something I wish could be more prevalent in other places as well, but it’s pretty cool to have something so unique in my hometown. Thanks!

Photo by Kim Chin-Gibbons from The Ashfield Town Spectacle.

Hollie Marron is a frame drummer and occupational therapist who has performed with Double Edge and led workshops for participants in our training programs.

Before getting involved with Double Edge, I had misperceived DE as unrelatable, as I do not quite relate to the art as centric world and am not a theater type. As a Health and Human Service Provider, I presumed that the company was not in touch with the everyday functions of life that I value, particularly access, health, occupational justice, sustainability, and surviving the challenges of thriving amidst the daily grind. Since being invited to get involved in the town spectacle and the recent performance Leonora’s World … I learned that I was wrong: this is a relatable, dynamic community of people living in the present, open to diverse experiences, and deeply concerned about the experience of the “common” unity/ common person, committed to appreciating the unique representation of talents within their own community, and inspired to address issues of social justice. I am honored, delighted, and inspired to be connected to Double Edge.

2015 spectacle Once a Blue Moon in the making. Photo by David Weiland.

Ali Bianchi is an artist based in NYC, and is originally from Plainfield, MA — next door to Ashfield. He has studied and performed with Double Edge in several projects.

Double Edge for me exemplifies one of the most magical parts of having grown up in Western Massachusetts: nestled within stands of trees and unassuming barns all over the area are masterful artists conducting deep explorations and investigations into their craft. Double Edge stands out as a group of artists committed to one of the deepest pursuits of all — the investigation of the self and humanity through the theatre. I don’t know if local friends and neighbors quite realize how very deeply these pursuits run. I only gained a full appreciation once I spent longer periods of time living and working at the theatre. The mentorship and education I received at Double Edge has proven foundational as I moved from Plainfield to New York City to continue training and making work as a performing artist. This fierce group of artists continues to influence the spirit with which I approach my work and the values from which I make it.

Because we are in a time where division, contention, and violence occupy large swaths of America’s cultural space, I think it is both miraculous and essential that places like Double Edge exist. We need artists who are willing to dedicate the inordinate amount of time and effort to making work that reminds us that there is always a part of being human that is larger than our times.

Photo courtesy of the Gray family.

Marsha Gray writes on behalf of her family, Raymond, Marsha, Brendon, and Brianna Gray. The Grays are a very long-standing family of Ashfield with a rich history, which they generously shared with DE as part of our local research during the creation of The Ashfield Town Spectacle and Culture Fair. Marsha also is a loving caretaker of one of the youngest members of the DE family, Yulia Dabova Bright, and Ray, of Harris and Gray Excavating, has worked and collaborated on renovations to DE facilities for over 20 years.

Incredible! Spectacular! We all knew after watching the production of the Odyssey at Double Edge Theatre that we wanted to come back each year. It does not take you long to discover that all of the performers and actors love what they are doing! When the musicians begin playing and the first scene is being performed, you become part of the performance. The Theatre grounds are beautiful and walking to each scene gives you the feeling that you are a part of the performance. The Ashfield Town Spectacle & Culture Fair holds great memories for us, the William Gray family, as Double Edge portrayed our father & grandfather in great detail. Double Edge took many parts of Ashfield’s history and brought it to life during The Ashfield Town Spectacle and We The People. It is easy to feel the sadness, stress, joy, or other emotions each of the actors portray in their role. The social gathering at the conclusion of the performance gives you the opportunity to reflect and engage in conversation with the performers and actors. If you have not been to a performance, you must go because you will not be disappointed!