Call and Response: Joan Schirle

by Stacy Klein

in I AM THEATRE

Post image for Call and Response: Joan Schirle

 ’The whole thing fell apart. It exploded. It wasn’t my fault”.  - Joan Schirle, I AM THEATRE

Similar to the Big Bang, which ostensibly was responsible for the creation of our world, most important discoveries or events are created out of a loss, or an explosion, or a shock. Change is difficult, and seems to become much easier when one does not have to be responsible for them. When a theatre has a good thing going, it is difficult to change it and grow, and we all know the stagnation that becomes inevitable. When I had the big and great idea to move Double Edge to a farm in rural Western MA everyone said okay (just to get out of the city) but the reality of that change was earthshaking, and led to half of the ensemble’s departure!

“I encountered something for the first time with such a powerful vision behind it. Its about wanting to see a professional theatre company in a rural area”. – Joan Schirle, I AM THEATRE

Leading a revolution is not the same as leading a nation. Double Edge’s ensemble came to the Farm with a vision (and a fantasy) about making theatre in a rural area. Maybe not the Pacific Ocean, as Joan mentioned, but of cows gracefully roaming the fields, no more ugly exit signs in our buildings, and people smiling at the gas station.

Instead of this fantasy, we encountered suspicion (as we never bothered to explain what we were doing in Ashfield), hardship (2ft of snow covering the ground for the first three months), and coyotes eating our cats. This was our own Big Bang, and we changed. And we are still changing. Because in a rural area, still connected to nature, and living with nature, one needs to change every day and encounter the intense beauty of life, and the cycles that confront us with survival.

How do each of us, whether we live in a rural or urban area— deal with change and transformation, and how do we find the ability to see our art in terms of life and survival?

How is this different in the city?

How distant is art from life in your own work?

Let us know, or better yet, don’t just tell, show.


Call and Response extends the conversation surrounding the I AM THEATRE videos (and hopefully inspires you to make your own video). You can watch Joan’s video and catch up on I AM THEATRE here.


Stacy Klein, Founder/Artistic Director of Double Edge Theatre, has led the company for almost 30 years into one of the foremost laboratory theatres in the U.S., applying rigorous physical training and the principle of an actor’s autonomy to create work in an ensemble setting. Klein’s acclaimed original performance cycles include the Women’s Cycle, the Song Trilogy, and the Garden of Intimacy and Desire. In 1994 Klein moved the company to the rural town of Ashfield and created a groundbreaking international center for living culture, performance and exchange. Klein is presently working on The Grand Parade,a Russian/American collaboration and the beginning of the five-performance, five-country Chagall Cycle,as well as a remount of the indoor outdoor traveling spectacle, THE ODYSSEY.