On the Town Spectacle

The roots of Double Edge, for the past 35 years since its founding, lie in questions of duality and identity. What are the stories, paradoxes, and dreams that make up a human being, a community, a society? What is identity, a sense of meaning and purpose, and what are the obstacles in the way of fully giving voice to the power and potential of that identity?

Double Edge’s Ashfield Town Spectacle and Culture Fair explores how active participation defines the intersection of art, culture and democracy. Grown directly from the theatre’s questions about the roots of identity, the Town Spectacle extends this search to include the whole community through a kaleidoscope of history, art, and spectacle. This performance will not take place in a theatre — the territories of the town will be the stage map — and the ensemble will be joined by all walks of the Ashfield, Hilltown, and Western MA community.

Culture and democracy. How does a song start? It doesn’t start as something automatic, which everybody can sing or play. Its words and story are not inherently known. Participation is not intrinsic. The song must grow. Voices need to come in. And the more meaningful songs remain. Culture, like a song, must root and blossom, a flowering tree — participation.


This project investigates this intersection through a kaleidoscope of three portals:

HISTORY

First Peoples

The project’s concept of history holds space for the history, stories, & culture of first peoples of the Hill Towns. The voices of indigenous peoples will introduce the land before European settlements took hold. of pre colonial history through the current times.

Town History

We are looking at the history of this town, opening the lens to include the hill towns and the region at large (where possible). Our focus is on the historical struggle for freedom, the development of democracy, and the ever-evolving identity of the town and its archetypes — the individual, the farmer, the taxpayer, the woman, the worker, the native, the artist, the persecuted, and so on. What we begin to see is a powerfully resonant history of struggle and resistance.

Town Meeting

Ashfield has one of the oldest and longest running traditions of direct democracy style town governance. We are examining this tradition and what it can model in this vulnerable moment in the history of democracy.

Women

There is a treasure trove of rich histories of the women, not only Ashfield and the Hill Towns, but of the region at large. Many of these narratives are left shadowed by dominant but not more meaningful histories which our project hopes to rebalance.

Ancestry/Oral Stories

A metaphorical archeology, excavating the actual stories, identities, and traditions of ancestors and people who have made up the town, now buried in Ashfield’s Plain Cemetery. What are the traditions and stories that have come before now and that are carried through?


THE ARTS

Music and Dance

We are trying to deal with the culture as it is — songs from Ashfield — the songs sung by Ashfield. Shape Note songs written and arranged hundreds of years ago. Songs of the spirit and the churched and songs of protest. And the same of the dance. Contradance and folk traditions not re-enacted but actually lived and in some cases reimagined. Many of our local music groups and dance groups will also present their work!

First Peoples

The project’s concept of history is not limited to European settlers. We want to hold space for the history, stories, & culture of first peoples of the Hill Towns.

Art and Theatre

Research and collaboration with our today’s local artists and those that fill our history. The art Ashfield is creating including art exhibitions and banners made just for the Spectacle. All FOUR Ashfield theatres will be represented during the two day event, with a range of scenes and performances made especially for the event.


SPECTACLE

Main Street Parade/Procession and Lake Celebration

This is the engagement of everyone together. Townspeople, youth, artists, the daring and the historians, the elderly all can participate, according to themselves. The frame is participation. In the air, on the roof tops, acting, singing, dance, stilts, walking, riding, no limits. For us this is the overcoming of resistance to change. Overcoming resistance to a lack of culture. Overcoming isolation through celebrating our potential. We begin at the Tavern and end at the Lake for a celebration to remember. Laughing dancing singing and flying all the way.

Double Edge is trying to take something that has been made at the Farm over the course of our 23 years there, and share it from its roots up with the whole community. It’s not just for artists to develop — it’s for citizens. So the question is — what does it mean to come together? What are the dimensions of identity that make up this place, or anyplace? What is the individual? What is celebration? How do people involve themselves? How do these elements go together? Every time people come on Sundays and participate or members of Double Edge go to the church or a local gathering and people sing together, the culture is alive. Renewed. Perceived in the song. In the dance. It is an actuality and a metaphor for culture, for democracy, for community.

Stacy Klein

April 17, 2017

Based originally on an interview by Matthew Glassman

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