By Punch Premiere Correspondent Lindsey Clark
Sometimes the theater can be boring. Sometimes it can warm your heart, or make you laugh or cry, or inspire you to dance all the way home. And then there are times when it can literally take you to another time and another place, where the line between play and performance art is blurred, and you find yourself rethinking your definition of theater. The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century) is a fantastic, visual time machine, that transports you through a centuryâ€™s worth of events â€“ from prohibition and the Great Depression to both World Wars, Beatlemania, the moon landing, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Inspired by the paintings of Marc Chagall, the breathtaking performance fuses aerial acts with dance and music, and, without a single word of dialogue, unfolds a hundred years of human history in what feels more like a dream sequence than an hour at the theater. Conceived by the imaginative and collaborative efforts of members of Double Edge Theatre, The Grand Parade premiers here in DC at Arena Stageâ€™s Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle, before the next stop on the productionâ€™s international tour â€“ Moscow.
Chagall, an artist known for the variety of mediums and styles that his works encompassed, was an inspirational force to his contemporaries (just for a frame of reference, his life spanned from 1887-1985, so his contemporaries would have included the likes of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse), and his colorful vision of our chaotic world is an obvious influence throughout The Grand Parade’s dreamy dance through time.Â The minimal but moving soundtrack of Grand Parade is intensified with sound bites and news reels from real events – such as excerpts from Hitler’s Nazi-era rallies, portions of speeches delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Walter Cronkite’s report of President Kennedy’s death, and the stage set is almost a character in and of itself – breathing and moving along with the rest of the cast, it is just as much a part of the story as they are.Â Designed and directed by Double Edge Theatre’s founder, Stacy Klein, the productionâ€™s run at Arena is very briefÂ (February 6-10) and as of the time of this post, every performance is sold out.Â The Grand Parade of Chagall, Arena, and the ensemble of Double Edge Theatre inspired an experience unlike anything I’ve ever seen on the stage before, and although it may be a bit more “out there” than many theater-goers are used to, I’m thrilled to know that at least as far as the theater goes, the term “there is nothing new under the sun,” simply does not apply.
Take a look at current/upcoming shows at Arena here– including the world premier of a new play that examines the friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her seamstress, Elizabeth Keckly (which I am more than a little excited about).
As the Punch Premiere Correspondent, Lindsey covers all things music and theater related. When not writing for Pamela’s Punch, Lindsey has a seriously sweet gig as Executive Assistant at the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (www.pcah.gov). Aside from writing and seeing as much live music as possible, you can usually find her on a running trail, in front of a painting, staring at her dog, Lincoln, or hanging out with her big sister and fellow Punch Correspondent Niki Clark. Follow her on twitter @lindseykayclark. Contact Lindsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.