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‘6 Feet Apart, All Together’: Ashfield’s Double Edge Theatre unveils new ‘Summer Spectacle’ 

  • Milena Dabova, left, Andrew Todd, in costume, and Cariel Klein, top, rehearse a scene from the new Summer Spectacle, which will include highlights from some past Double Edge Theatre productions. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amanda Miller balances on an archway during a rehearsal for Double Edge Theatre’s Summer Spectacle, “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Double Edge Theatre ensemble actors Carlos Uriona, left, and Matthew Glassman transition from one set to another during a rehearsal for the Ashfield troupe’s Summer Spectacle, “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Double Edge Theatre Artistic Director and founder Stacy Klein watches the action during a recent a rehearsal of “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Milena Dabova, left, and Francisco Rivera Rodriguez rehearse in the stream at Ashfield’s Double Edge Theatre for the troupe’s Summer Spectacle, “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Double Edge Theatre co-artistic director Jennifer Johnson coaxes Ivy the goat into a walk through the “living labyrinth” during a rehearsal for the Ashfield troupe’s Summer Spectacle, “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Long-legged dancer: Hannah Jarrell wields stilts and a scythe during a rehearsal for “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Double Edge Theatre actor and co-artistic director Carlos Uriona plays Giuseppe the cobbler during a rehearsal for the Ashfield troupe’s Summer Spectacle, “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Double Edge Theatre ensemble actor Matthew Glassman addresses the would-be audience during a rehearsal for the Ashfield troupe’s Summer Spectacle, “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • C.L. Dukes walks through a labyrinth at Double Edge Theatre during a rehearsal for the Ashfield troupe’s new Summer Spectacle. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Double Edge Theatre co-artistic director Jennifer Johnson, with a rein on Ivy the goat, and ensemble actor Hannah Jarrell, background right, rehearse a scene from “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Double Edge Theatre ensemble actor Matthew Glassman rehearses Friday for the Ashfield troupe’s Summer Spectacle, “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Double Edge Theatre co-artistic director Jennifer Johnson, left, with a rein on Ivy the goat, watches ensemble actor Amanda Miller in a rehearsal of “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Double Edge Theatre ensemble actors Carlos Uriona, left, and Matthew Glassman transition from one set to another, with Artistic Director and founder Stacy Klein close behind, during a rehearsal for “6 Feet Apart, All Together.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING



Staff Writer
Thursday, July 16, 2020

Alongside sweet corn and outdoor music concerts, one of the summer mainstays in the Valley over the years has been the “Summer Spectacles” produced by Double Edge Theatre: outdoor presentations that, moving with the audience across the Ashfield company’s rural grounds, combine storytelling, music, dance, and varied, inventive sets.

This year, though, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a halt not only to traditional indoor theaters but to outdoor theater festivals across the country. At best, some outdoor shows have been reset with dramatically reduced schedules.

But Double Edge has forged ahead with a revised Summer Spectacle for this year, one the ensemble says has been downsized to allow for a safe presentation for audience members and performers — and which is also designed to offer some hope for a brighter future.

Cariel Klein, associate producer for Double Edge, said “6 Feet Apart, All Together,” which runs July 22 through Aug. 9, is “also our way of saying ‘thank you’ to so many people who have supported us.” From people renewing their memberships early, to a local doctor who tested ensemble members for the virus, to support “from our community and from unexpected quarters, we’ve been able to weather a really difficult time,” Klein said.

Jennifer Johnson, co-artistic director for the Ashfield troupe, said the group’s summer productions can typically involve 50 or more people, factoring in performers, set designers, costume makers and volunteers. “6 Feet Apart,” by contrast, will involve 20 to 25 performers, she says, and the audience size will also be reduced to 30-45 people rather than 100 — to make sure everyone is able to maintain social distancing.

The production itself will include selected scenes and sets from several past Double Edge summer performances, such as last year’s “I am the Baron,” as well as new elements that are focused on a celebration of nature. There will also be some sketches based on a projected future performance, such as a fresh look at stories from ancient Greece, which Double Edge previously explored in “The Odyssey” in 2011 and 2012.

The scenes from past presentations have been revised to reflect the smaller number of performers who will present them, Johnson noted, which “is definitely a challenge. But we’ve always approached [past performances] with the idea of doing things differently, not just repeating what we’ve done, so in that sense we’re really just doing the same thing this year.”

“6 Feet Apart” will take place entirely outside, on the Double Edge grounds where past Summer Spectacles have been staged; there will be no performance in the ensemble’s renovated barn that’s been consistently employed in its shows. There will be no performances on days with significant rain, Klein and Johnson say.

The audience will also be divided into smaller groups of between 10 and 15 people as they move about the grounds, and everyone will be required to wear masks.

But within those restrictions, Klein and Johnson say, the dancing, music, stilt walkers and other trademarks of Double Edge presentations will be included in “6 Feet Apart,” even with most performers maintaining a certain distance from each other and the audience. There will also be some additional artwork to be seen along the way.

“You can think of it kind of like a sculpture garden with these moving and performing elements,” Johnson says.

The production, Klein says, has been animated by a real spirit of thankfulness and creativity after the shocks the ensemble dealt with back in March. At the time, the group had just begun performing one of its shows on a two-month tour that included dates in the U.S., Norway and Great Britain. They were in New Mexico for their second night when they learned their shows were to be canceled due to the virus outbreak.

“We had a panic week, where we were just trying to figure out how to get everyone home,” Klein says. “And once we did that, we kind of looked at each other and said ‘What now?’ ”

But being forced to recalibrate has helped the ensemble develop strong safety protocols, Klein says, from reducing the number of students serving on campus this year to having all staff tested for COVID-19, while building new training regimes that don’t rely on close physical contact. Ensemble members have also been grouped into separate “pods” that allow smaller numbers of performers to work more closely together, said Klein, though some distancing is still maintained.

And Johnson says the situation has put renewed emphasis on the ensemble using — and appreciating — its 105-acre property of fields, woods and streams.

“That’s been another inspiration for us,” she said. In spring, Johnson added, “We had a lot of calls from people who said “Can I come out and just walk around and be in that space?’ That was a good place for us to start … nature is really the big show here.”

“6 Feet Apart” will run between an hour and an hour and a half. Performances will take place Wednesdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m., and this year Saturday matinees have been added (1 p.m. on July 25 and Aug. 1 and 8).

Stacy Klein, Double Edge’s founder and artistic director, sums up the production like this: “We see that it is possible to move though these times 6 feet apart and ALL TOGETHER. We are moved and humbled by the many, many examples of those around us, and by the spirit we find in each other.”

To order tickets for “6 Feet Apart, All Together,” visit doubleedgetheatre.org. Additional information is available by calling (413) 628-0277.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.