"The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century)" is undeniably one of the least conventional productions ever to grace any of Arena Stage's theaters. A world premiere of the Double Edge Theatre, "The Grand Parade" tells the story of the 20th century as seen through a filter inspired by the work of the artist Marc Chagall. Music, dance, puppetry, projections, masks and trapezes work together to turn the Kogod Theatre into a space where humans fly and animals come to life.

Double Edge Theatre itself is as fascinating as its unique productions. Located on a 105-acre former dairy farm in Massachusetts, they produce indoors in a hay barn in the winter, while in summer they move outdoors to produce large scale pageant-like spectacles. Since moving to the Farm in 1994 they have been committed to the notion that their art must be connected to the local community.

"Over the last 15 years or so, we've been doing research in terms of how to make artistic production sustainable," said Matthew Glassman, actor and executive director of the Farm Center. "What has developed is a notion of living culture, where the whole community interacts in the life of the artistic process."

Now the people who live near the Farm cooperate with the theatre: for example, a farmer with a weather tracker helps the theater determine when to perform in summer in the face of oncoming thunderstorms; a baker provides the theater with baked goods.

'The Grand Parade (of the 20th Century)'
Where: Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth Street SW
When: Wednesday through Sunday
Info: Tickets start at $40; 202-488-3300; arenastage.org

The genesis for "The Grand Parade" in part came from doing a summer spectacle on mythology.

"We realized that we wanted to use Chagall's way of imagining to find our own mythology for the century, the way the Greeks found a mythology for the Trojan War, for a time of transition and upheaval," said Glassman.

"We were never trying to represent Chagall's specific paintings. We were inspired by his way of seeing and his audacity, his boldness of color, the strange mix of the magical and dreamlike with the everyday, the sense of finding mystery and magic in every day. And we loved the narratives that happen inside his paintings.

"So the piece grew out of an exploration of his vivid imagination. We realized that Chagall had lived through almost the whole 20th century. Even though we weren't interested in a biographical presentation of his life, we saw the arc of history in his work.

"So we began to research the entire century decade by decade. That's why the production has the feel of a mosaic of the years. It's dreamlike and intoxicating. By presenting a 100 years in an hour, you get a kaleidoscopic mash-up of the century."