For 40 years, Double Edge Theatre has been a sanctuary for the performing arts. Their fall season offers three pieces representing the inner monsters of individuals, using puppetry and shadows to explore the struggles of Native American people and the impact of hostility towards LGBTQ+ people. 

Connecting Point’s Iohann Rashi Vega spoke with Double Edge Theater Co-Director Carlos Uriona, and directors Jeremy Eaton, Tomantha Sylvester, and Travis Coe about their personal connection to the pieces, and how this work personifies and amplifies the representation of different groups strongly embedded in our society. 

Read the Full Transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: For 40 years, Double Edge Theatre has been a sanctuary for the performing arts. Their fall season offers three pieces that represent the inner monsters of us as individuals, using puppetry and shadows to explore the struggles of Native American people and the impact of hostility towards LGBTQ+ people.

Connecting Point’s Iohann Rashi Vega spoke with those involved to find out how this work represents and amplifies the representation of different groups strongly embedded in our society.

Carlos Uriona, Double Edge Theatre: Double Edge Theatre was, for many years, was just a small group we were not more than than seven at times, even less at times. And there has been in my seeing or what I perceive from what the audience has been saying, not only that we were able to — with resilience to — to somehow survive COVID and everything that happened, you know, during COVID and a little before COVID, the reality of this world, but that we have grown aesthetically.

Iohann Rashi Vega, Connecting Point: Let’s talk about each one of the three pieces that are part of this fall season at the Double Edge Theatre. Let’s start with Jeremy.

Jeremy, you are the director and the designer for “Lightning.” What is the meaning behind this piece, especially because of such title, such a strong word? This name feels that encapsulates what the expectation of this experience will be.

Jeremy Louis Eaton, Double Edge Theatre: That’s funny you put it that way, because that’s how I named it. I named it, I think for some marketing reasons, just to be honest. We needed a name, and I hadn’t made the show yet!

And I decided to be okay with that and name it…the thing that I like, I was like, “I’m just going to boldly call this ‘Lightning’ and then see what I make that is…brings me that feeling.”

So, it’s kind of like a challenge to myself to be like, “You better make something that really makes you feel awake because that’s a big name.” Yeah.

And you’re saying, like, what a big word that is. And it’s — the metaphor of it and the reality of it are both very, very strong, which is something I think I was artistically and therefore also personally, looking for in life. And then the seeds of the work itself are…it’s partially autobiographical, although that’s not something anyone else would ever understand.

And I’m not for this work making…the autobiography of it is all in metaphor. So, it’s not anything else that anyone would ever recognize, and I am doing that intentionally. I don’t want to share my life story in an explicit way, and I don’t want to talk about life experience in an explicit way just for myself. But I do want to make work about it.

So, this performance was the first time for myself as an artist, I ever just tried to go all in on making something that is my memoir.

And then also I knew I couldn’t do it alone. So, I’m really lucky to have found four different kind of eclectic oddballs who I’d never worked — us as a group had never worked together before. Some of them I had never worked together with in any context before. We just committed to each other to make this. I think what we all had in common was a desire to be making something. And so, it’s also about that.

And I hope, certainly, that although the root of it was this kind of metaphorical autobiography about how we deal with monsters as a reality and as a metaphor in our life and internal ones, I deeply hope that they each…my favorite thing about the work is that when I hear them talking about it, they’re not like “Jeremy’s thing” or “Jeremy decided to do this part or she suggested,” like they’re fully talking about their own work and their own, like each of them would have a different description of the of the piece.

And that, I hope, is somehow kind of inherently in the in the making of it and then the DNA of it.

Iohann Rashi Vegat: Tomantha, let’s talk about your work. The piece is “Something Else,” along with the reading of “How We Go Missing.”

For “Something Else,” you are not only the writer, but also the performer. And in this piece, we follow the story of an incarcerated Native American woman on death row as she seeks connection in her final moments.

How it becomes meaningful to you as a personal experience creating something else?

Tomantha Sylvester, Double Edge Theatre: So, I first wrote this piece when I attended the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, which is located in Connecticut, and at that time it was just a text-based piece. There wasn’t really any music, there wasn’t anything else. And then I came to Double Edge shortly thereafter, and I was like, “Wow, I should really develop this piece more with aspects of what Double Edge has taught me,” which is more of the physical realm or of the visceral, imaginative sort of thing.

And so, I started developing it here, developing the piece here. And what has become of that is…there’s more of a sense of the multiplicities of realities that Natives experience on a daily basis, whether that’s through being mixed or, you know, just walking in two worlds, so to speak, in this world and the native world. And so as we follow Lucy, she unexpectedly finds freedom through dance, through humor, through connection with the audience. There’s quite a bit of audience interaction, improv type of stuff. And yeah, just basically reflecting on what it is to be indigenous in 2022.

“How We Go Missing” is the reading premiere of…from the Anishinaabe Theater Exchange, I’m the co-director of the ATE, and this piece is about the different ways in which Native people go missing, whether that’s physically or through erasive practices, through imagery, or just erasing through what we call curriculum in schools, that type of thing.

And this is a work in progress. It’s very exciting. Right now we’re focusing just on the women, but hopefully in the future we can focus on the men and the two Spirit and LGBTQ+ community and what it is to again be Native in this time and how we go missing.

Iohann Rashi Vega: And Travis, you design and you are the director of “Rainbow Exodus.” And this is a compelling and strong piece that tells the story of a man and his journey to escape the confines of their conservative upbringing in Poland, where people are increasingly hostile towards the LGBTQ+ community.

How did the “Rainbow Exodus” come to be?

Travis Coe, Double Edge Theatre: “Rainbow Exodus” this came out of a proposal to my — my partner Karol, we’re life partners. And he was talking a lot about activist work that he wanted to do on the streets. And I sort of said to him, “Hey, why don’t we try to maybe develop something really intimate and personal?” And so, through that and through all those things, he — he took on the proposal, really, and we began working on this piece, “Rainbow Exodus.”

And early on we knew we wanted it to be somewhere that was — that was daily and concrete, a place where travel is always happening. And so, we stumbled upon a bus stop in the middle of the night in Woolwich, which is his hometown, and it’s the night that he decides, “I’m leaving Poland, I’m getting out of here, and I’m going to start a new life where I can be gay, happy and free.”

And interestingly enough, what usually happens in our experience of travel is that, trains get delayed, buses get delayed. So, basically the bus gets delayed, and he’s stranded now for, let’s say, a long time at this bus stop. And what begins to develop for him is…is a looking back at his past, thinking about his future. And so, I like to see “Rainbow Exodus” as a piece that is sort of in-between the arrival and departure moment, in between heaven and hell.

And sort of we spend a lot of time in that in-between place of being sort of stuck, but also then finding out how to break free within those restraints and boundaries. It’s a really intense piece. I think also it being a piece that I’m doing with my life partner, it’s extremely personal and we have had many great growths and flight, also fights. And I think this piece is that it’s — it’s a fight and a flight at the same time.