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Currency of Exchange

Over the course of the past four years, my understanding of theatre as a young adult has shifted and morphed countless times, namely, my idea of how I wish to practice theatre. At Boston University, I’ve had the privilege of taking many exciting movement, voice, acting, and other related classes, yet the university form has always left me wanting more.  In pursuit of other forms, spending time outside of the university has taught me the value of sharing skills and experience.

During my training with Double Edge Theatre, a laboratory theatre company located in Ashfield, MA, I’ve encountered international artists in pursuit of artistic/intellectual exchange. In 2013 for example, Morgan Jenness paid Double Edge a visit for both work and pleasure—she shared with us her knowledge as a long time dramaturg and theatre artist, and we shared sessions of physical training, among other things, with her. On another occasion in 2014, members from Mondo Bizarro and q-Staff theatre companies participated in an ongoing exchange with Double Edge, and they spent time training with us and sharing their own methods.

Offering one’s skills and knowledge in return for another’s skills and knowledge- this is what I am interested in.

I recently read an article in American Theatre magazine titled, “Finding Antigone: Into the Woods of Poland” by Jim O’Quinn. As both a lover of Sophocles’ Antigone and its many modern adaptions, and with a fascination with Polish theatre traditions, this article immediately caught my attention. It chronicles a two-week training workshop between San Francisco’s Cutting Ball Theatre Company, and Poland’s Teatr ZAR. Paige Rogers and Rob Melrose founded the experimental Cutting Ball, largely after a grant funded research trip to study European theatre models. In this trip to Poland, Rogers (director) brought her cast of eight actors for an upcoming production of Antigone to train extensively with the members of Teatr ZAR at Brezezinka, the forest base of the Grotowski Institute where Jerzy Grotowski famously worked.

Brzezinka workspace (photo by Magdalena Madra)

Brzezinka workspace (photo by Magdalena Madra)

The draw to Teatr ZAR came from Rogers’ love of ZAR’s integration of music and theater. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the group flew to Poland where they participated in polyphonic singing (check it out!), movement and body work, and breathing techniques led by members of ZAR, all of which united the cast as an ensemble. Sessions focused on listening and awareness of self and others, moving and sounding together. The work began with the morning sunlight and was rigorous and deep, in the typical style of ZAR. After two weeks, the group returned to the United States armed with connections and tools to dig much deeper into their Antigone, which is set to open February 19th.

Cutting Ball Theatre's poster for Antigone

Cutting Ball Theatre’s poster for Antigone

One can only benefit from this type of exchange, and artists are doing it all the time. As many of us theatre folk know, the theatre world can be a small one. While reading the Antigone article, I realized I’d met one of it’s cast members, Emma Crane Jaster, two years prior while working on a summer spectacle with Double Edge—she’d gone to college with one of Double Edge’s ensemble members and had been asked to choreograph pieces of dance for the spectacle. I was struck by how small the world suddenly felt.

And the exchanges continue! Tonight! Tonight, Anne Bogart and Leon Ingulsrud of the SITI Company will publicly converse with Stacy Klein, Carlos Uriona, and Matthew Glassman of Double Edge Theatre, livestreamed by HowlRound.  Double Edge posted on Facebook about the conversation saying the companies would:

“reflect on some of the questions that the two companies share, such as: How does having a practice of training affect our companies’ creative collaborations and organizational development? What does it mean for an ensemble to have their activities split between creating and performing work, and teaching and training other artists?… The Conversation is part of a week-long exchange between SITI Company and Double Edge Theatre, funded by the Network of Ensemble Theaters and hosted at Double Edge’s Farm. During this exchange, members of the two ensembles will share training processes and dialogue about artistic and structural questions currently facing the two companies. The project brings SITI Company members and SITI Conservatory artists together with Double Edge and represents participants from 11 countries.”

If this doesn’t make you want to burst with excitement, I don’t know what will.

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