Whenever one enters the Alexander Kasser Theater, excitement and grandeur are always expected, but no other show will be able to come close to this past weekend’s performance of “The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century).”
Based on the painting of the same title by early-modernist artist Marc Chagall, “The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century)” is much more than a piece of theater, but rather an experience.
“The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century)” tackled history decade by decade, depicting important events and iconographic elements of the 20th century using acrobatics, aerial feats, music, dance and miming. Audience members were able to watch World War II and the AIDS epidemic play out on stage as well as listen to the music of the Beatles and David Bowie.
The show was brought to Montclair State by the Double Edge Theater company. Similar to “The Grand Parade,” the company is unique and even extravagant themselves. Residing on a farm in Ashfield, Massachusetts, the company spends their time experimenting with the idea of living culture, a notion that art is not just a one-time experience for entertainment, but an essential part of any community’s life.
On Thursday, Feb. 4, the show opened to a crowd of over 300 people. Beforehand, the dramaturg for “The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century),” Morgan Jenness, gave a talk to early-arrivers on the Double Edge Theater company as well as the history of the show as part of Alexander Kasser Theater’s recurring event for Peak Performances, “Sneak Peek.”
In Jenness’ talk, she described the history “The Grand Parade” was attempting to reveal. “But the whole thing about ‘The Grand Parade’ of history or ‘The Grand Parade’ through the 20th Century, is that it shifts,” Jenness said. “It shifts for every individual. It shifts depending on what each individual person is, what your memories, what your perspectives are.”
After the opening night, word spread about “The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century)”— the audience averaged around 350-400 people on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday morning, the public was granted another opportunity to further their glimpse into the company and the show itself. A training session with the Double Edge Theater company was open to the first 30 people to sign up. This was the first time the Alexander Kasser Theater had to create a waiting list for an event due to the overwhelming amount of people who wanted a glimpse at what exactly the Double Edge Theater company does to train.
Participants experienced an hour and 45 minutes of skipping, running, jumping, transferring energy to one another, wearing masks and even rolling around the rehearsal space on gigantic wooden spools. The training the company experiences every day is unlike most theater companies, a nod to the distinctive and certainly special aspects of their performance abilities.
After the show finished each night, the company requested to hold a reception to be able to meet and discuss their performance with the audience. Most nights, the discussions meandered on for at least an hour after the performance ended, proving the depth and impact “The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century)” had on its viewers.