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All the world’s indeed a stage

Theater-goers follow action, crisscrossing downtown

  • Recorder/David Rainville<br/>Actress Emma Ayres leads her audience up Bank Row in a Saturday performance of "Crisscross" during the Double Take Fringe Theater Festival in downtown Greenfield.

    Recorder/David Rainville
    Actress Emma Ayres leads her audience up Bank Row in a Saturday performance of "Crisscross" during the Double Take Fringe Theater Festival in downtown Greenfield. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Actors Kieran Smyth and Emma Ayres act out the final scene of the wandering play “Crisscross” inside the First National Bank and Trust during the 2012 Double Take Fringe Theater Festival.<br/>(Recorder/David Rainville)

    Actors Kieran Smyth and Emma Ayres act out the final scene of the wandering play “Crisscross” inside the First National Bank and Trust during the 2012 Double Take Fringe Theater Festival.
    (Recorder/David Rainville) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder/David Rainville<br/>Actress Emma Ayres leads her audience up Bank Row in a Saturday performance of "Crisscross" during the Double Take Fringe Theater Festival in downtown Greenfield.
  • Actors Kieran Smyth and Emma Ayres act out the final scene of the wandering play “Crisscross” inside the First National Bank and Trust during the 2012 Double Take Fringe Theater Festival.<br/>(Recorder/David Rainville)

GREENFIELD — It may seem rude for audience members to put on headphones and wander about the stage during a play, but the cast and crew of one play in a weekend-long theater festival didn’t mind a bit.

Of course, the Double-Take Fringe Theater Festival isn’t your average night of theater.

In “Crisscross,” the audience assumed the role of Guy Hayes, who agreed with a stranger to each murder someone for the other. “Hayes” visits several dark, seedy sites across downtown, a scene of Leverett director John Bechtold’s play unfolding at each one.

“The locations were great,” said Jordi Herold. “Being inside some of them made you feel kind of uneasy, even though your knew it was a staged production.”

Under the Bank Row bridge, Hayes encounters a homeless person, who leads him into the mothballed Abercrombie building. Through a back door, Hayes watches the stranger murder his unfaithful fiancee in Energy Park.

Back outside, a woman beckons from across the street. The actress takes an audience member’s arm and runs to her “apartment,” set in the Recorder’s former press room.

It’s a setup. A homicide detective likes you for the murder, though he can’t prove anything ­­— yet.

The last scene is a showdown with the stranger, who thinks you’ve backed out of the deal. The scene plays out in the crumbling First National Bank and Trust.

Taking its premise from Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train,” it harkened back to the days of film noir. Though the murders were no mystery, the audience was left guessing “what’s next?” at each step.

“You didn’t know who your next shepherd would be,” said Herold. But he soon figured it out.

“Always follow the mysterious woman in the plunging dress.”

Though the audience was small, with each performance limited to eight viewers, the actors played their parts 26 times over the weekend, though they didn’t have to say a word.

Actors and audience alike listened to a synchronized soundtrack on portable music players. Audiences left Jack Golden’s 9 Mill Street studio in nine-minute intervals, and actors reset their scenes just as often.

“This was a great way to do a performance,” said Elizabeth Dunaway, Herold’s wife. “It’s a really cool concept.”

Fans of Old Deerfield Productions, the couple came up from Northampton for dinner and a couple shows.

That’s the festival’s “fringe” benefit — bringing a boost to downtown businesses.

“The event is great for my tenants,” said Herold, who owns much of the Bank Row block and rents to several businesses, like Magpie Woodfired Pizzeria and Manna House.

With eight plays in as many downtown locations, the festival took attendees past shops and restaurants over the weekend.

Fringe Theater began bringing short plays to under-used locations in Scotland in 1947, but Greenfield’s festival is a bit newer. The inaugural festival was last year, and organizers say they ironed out a lot of the kinks this time around.

“One challenge last year was seating,” said Becky George, events manager for the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. “This year, we figured having two productions of each show per night would disperse the crowd a bit.”

“We didn’t think it would be so popular last year,” said Linda McInerney, artistic director of Old Deerfield Productions, which partnered with the Chamber for the event.

They said people were lined up at their ticket booth on the common at 4:30 p.m. Friday, half an hour before tickets went on sale.

Both were excited about “Crisscross,” showings of which filled up quickly.

McInerney said the festival sold more than 600 tickets, up a bit from last year. She hopes to hold the festival for years to come. At $10 for a night or $15 for the weekend, it makes a night (or two) of theater affordable on nearly any budget.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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