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Archive for the ‘Pig Iron Theatre Company’ Category

A Period of Animate Existence Reading List

Posted September 15th, 2017

Next weekend the beloved Philadelphia institution Pig Iron Theatre Company returns to the Fringe Festival with their first major work in two years, and it’s clear they put that time to good use. A Period of Animate Existence may be their most ambitious work to date, an awe inspiring large-scale piece of symphonic theater that examines the most universal, urgent issue of our time: climate change.

In an era called the “Sixth Extinction,” when up to 50 percent of all living species might die off, rather than grappling with the issue in a lecturing, damning manner, the creative team hopes to achieve something more nuanced and universally relatable. “We’ve tried hard to avoid an activist voice with this piece—we want to avoid haranguing or scolding as we investigate the landscape of emotions around climate change,” director Dan Rothenberg told the FringeArts Blog. “As we contemplate extinctions, I keep talking about emotions that I don’t have a name for. I know what grief is, having experienced the deaths of people close to me. And I know what terror is. I think finding ourselves in the middle of extinction creates feelings like grief and terror, but it’s some other emotion that doesn’t have a name.” In taking this lofty approach to the issue, the artists have most certainly done their homework, and then some.

The company has been gracious enough to share with us a list of texts that helped inform the piece. These works may help deepen audiences’ understanding of the show, but, perhaps more importantly, they will help deepen their understanding of the serious crisis we are currently living with. If confronting this harrowing information sounds daunting or terrifying or a surefire way to send yourself into fear-induced catatonia, believe me, I understand. Yet, in reading from these works, I’ve found being informed in my dread has been far more comforting than being ignorant in it. And thankfully, despite the dire nature of the situation, many of these writers chart concrete courses of action for how we might curb the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Taking in this full picture, perhaps you’ll find yourself not quite feeling grief, not quite feeling terror, but feeling that liminal emotion A Period of Animate Existence strives to articulate.

Vibrant Matter
Jane Bennett

Renowned political theorist Jane Bennet—known for her focus on nature, ethics, and affect— examines the active participation of nonhuman forces in natural events. Exploring just how political analyses of public events might change were we to acknowledge that agency is not strictly human, she suggests that such a change in perspective might provide impetus for more responsible, ecologically sound politics.

 

Key Writings
Henri Bergson

French philosopher Henri Bergson was an influential thinker of the early 20th century, one who recognized his time as a distinctly new and modern age, and in turn helped shape its intellectual discourse. At the core of his philosophy is his concept of Duration, a theory of time and consciousness, but most pertinent to the show is his concept of élan vital, his explanation for evolution (a relatively new concept at the time) and the development of organisms which essentializes life into “mobility itself.” This collection assembles Bergson’s most essential writings, including excerpts from Creative Evolution.

 

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable
Amitav Ghosh

Acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh takes to task our inability to grasp the scale and violence of climate change, particularly in terms of what he sees as an imaginative failure of literary writers. Arguing that the extreme nature of climate events make them resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining, he sees this as connected to the fact that politics and literature have become matters of personal moral reckoning rather than a platform for collective action. They are therefore, at the moment, unequipped to deal with what is truly the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. It’s not all doom and gloom though, as Ghosh sees the climate crisis as an opportunity for us to imagine other forms of human existence. He sees no better realm to address this task than in the world of fiction.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Apocalyptic Visions

Posted September 2nd, 2017

In these turbulent times, artists in the Fringe Festival are using their mediums to present worst case scenarios for our unpredictable future. Check out the horrifying projections of reality coming to our city at this year’s Fringe!

 

AMERICANA PSYCHOBABBLE @ Berks Warehouse
Alexandra Tatarsky

A delirious anti-narrative of American emptiness, violence, and nonsense—part exorcism and part enema! With styrofoam wings, Xmas lights, and ketchup. “Phyllis Diller meets Artaud!” “Like Kellyanne Conway woke up from a coma after overdosing on sleeping pills and reading too much Gertrude Stein.” AMERICANA PSYCHOBABBLE exists somewhere between irrational healing ceremony, sad clown song, dance in the abyss, and desperate diatribe to take back ecstatic nonsense as an act of resistance. More info and tickets here.

 

Every Day APOCALYPSE! @ The Collective
Lone Brick Theatre Company

The death rays and nukes of outrageous fortune are aimed squarely at a struggling theater group when an irate son of God condemns the company to face a new apocalyptic scenario every day, for eternity. Can they learn to get along in order to save the world, not to mention the world’s worst production of Hamlet? More info and tickets here.

 

GATZ @ Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre
Harrison Stengle

Philadelphia, year 2025, the tempo of the city had changed sharply. The buildings were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the kush was cheaper, the restlessness approached hysteria. From the makers of the off-off Broadway show Sword of the Unicorn comes GATZ a Great Gatsby modernist parody. More info and tickets here.

 

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Family Friendly Fare, Part 2

Posted August 27th, 2017

Just because it’s at the Fringe doesn’t mean you have to leave the kids at home. Check out some of the Festival’s productions appropriate for all ages. Bring the whole family! Check out Part 1 here.

 

A Period of Animate Existence @ Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts 
Pig Iron Theatre Company

Children, elders, and machines contemplate the future in a time of dire predictions and rapid technological change in this work of symphonic theater. How do we contemplate the future in such a perilous time, an era called the “Sixth Extinction,” when up to 50 percent of all living species might die off? An inspired, large-scale melding of music, design, and theater, A Period of Animate Existence investigates the intense, unnamable emotions that arise in a time of extinction. More info and tickets here.

 

Photo by Michael Bach.

Lost in the Woods @ German Society of Pennsylvania
A Moment for Music

Lost in the Woods is the journey of two starving children who must find their way in a world that threatens to both empower and devour them. This family-friendly romp through Hansel and Gretel’s forest is a multimedia adventure featuring classical, jazz, and pop singing, lip-sync, and dance. More tickets and info here.

 

Photo by Michael Ermilio.

 

Life Lines @ Christ Church Neighborhood House 
Tangle Movement Arts

Seven women collide and are changed forever. In this dynamic circus-theater show, strangers meet their match, empty rooms listen in, and women find their power in flight. Tangle’s acrobats climb trapezes and aerial silks as they face sudden changes, spark chain reactions, and test the hidden threads that bind us.

 

Worktable @ BOK
Kate McIntosh

We provide the hammer, you do the rest. Worktable is a live installation that takes place in a series of rooms, which visitors engage with one at a time. Having signed up beforehand for a specific time slot, you enter and can stay as long as you like. Once inside there are instructions, equipment, and safety goggles so you can get to work—it’s up to you to decide how things come apart, and how they fall back together. More info and tickets here.

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Textbook Definition of Life: Interview with Dan Rothenberg of Pig Iron

Posted July 13th, 2017

“I think the question ‘Does a machine have a perspective?’ is another way of asking the question ‘What is alive and not alive?'”

Brilliant in their innovation and shining in their craft, the Pig Iron Theater Company has earned its accolades for its artistic excellence. The recipient of several Obie awards, the company never fails to amaze in its fresh, interdisciplinary takes on current events and social themes of the human experience. Dan Rothenberg is one of the founders and artistic directors of Pig Iron, producing their newest work, A Period of Animate Existence. This production has amounted to a huge collaboration between actors, musicians, and a number of choirs, culminating in a show about the human experience of climate change, in the form of a symphony. We caught up with Dan to find out about how the idea for this show came about, and what it’s been like to put it all together.

FringeArts: How did the title A Period of Animate Existence come into being?

Dan Rothenberg: Troy Herion proposed this title.  He looked up the word “life” in the dictionary.  It is a textbook definition. We were working with a few different sources of inspiration: Alan Watts, who talks about “the rocks peopling” as a way of imagining the beginnings of life on Earth, and understanding that we organic creatures are made out of exactly the same stuff as inorganic rocks. We looked at Richard Dawkins and “the Selfish Gene,” which talks about humans as big lumbering robots “operated” by genes within us.  This grade-school question: “what’s the difference between alive and not-alive?” remains elusive for both scientists and philosophers, even today.

FringeArts: How did you go about gathering your key collaborators, what were the artistic conversations you were hoping to foster between not just them and Pig Iron, but between each other?

Dan Rothenberg: Some of the collaborators are folks I’ve worked with before for years, like Tyler Micoleau (lights) and Nick Kourtides (sound). These are people I trust who have contributed to some of the Pig Iron work I am most proud of. I am working with the librettists Kate Tarker and Will Eno, and with choreographer Beth Gill, for the first time. We were looking for artists who take on big ideas and who care about form. People who make work in which the form is front and center.  Especially with choreographer Beth Gill, I wanted somebody with a deeply mathematical mind. Someone who sees the poetry in mathematics, since I feel that this piece is about seeing the world in terms of fundamental forces rather than as a set of relationships between people.

FringeArts: What prompted the five movements structure?

Dan Rothenberg: Gustav Mahler said that a symphony must be like the world, containing everything. So the five-movement structure is a symphonic structure. It’s our own “13 ways of looking at a blackbird.” A deliberate effort to get at something that’s too large to get your head around, by coming at it from five very different angles.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Adrienne Mackey

Posted July 11th, 2016

Name: Adrienne Mackey

Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony

Adrienne Mackey, Swim Pony

Type of Artist: Theater and lately interdisciplinary

Company: Swim Pony Performing Arts

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
A Portrait of Dora as a Young Man, Stolen Chair Theatre Co, 2003 – actor
Hell Meets Henry Halfway, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2004 – assistant director, sound operator
Like Ink and Paper, 2004 – director
Bardo, Leah Stein Dance Company, 2005 – production manager and vocalist
The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2006 – director
recitatif, 2007 – director
Echo, Tribe of Fools, 2007 – director
The Giant Squid, The Berserker Residents, 2008 – director
Purr, Pull, Reign, Johnny Showcase and the Lefty Lucy Cabaret, 2009 – director
Lady M, 2011 – director
The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013 – director
It’s So Learning, The Berserker Residents, 2015 – outside eye – fringe

Also a past LAB fellow.

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Possibly working with Mary McCool on her in-progress piece. Still not definite . . .

First Fringe I attended: My initial experience with Fringe was in 2000 as a first semester freshman in college. I was only weeks into school, living away from home for the first time and so excited to see what Philly’s arts scene had to offer. I remember taking the train into Philly with some guy on my hall named Dima who I barely knew. We picked a show at random—all I remember about it was that it was a middle-aged woman in a tutu who took off all her clothes halfway through the show. I had no idea what was happening and I remember feeling both overwhelmed and extremely cool to be doing something so weird. Later that same festival I saw a play in a karate dojo in which actors were trapped in a scene with their own feelings portrayed by other actors wearing black and white mime makeup. Sort of Marcel Marceau meets No Exit by way of Pirandello. I remember thinking, “I could do that.” Two years later I was in my first fringe show.

First Fringe I participated in: While I was still a junior in college I acted in a show called Portrait of Dora as a Young Man that explored Freud’s famous case of Dora, one of the few women who ever rebelled against his analytic theories. We rehearsed an entire summer together at Swarthmore College—a mix of folks who had just graduated and a bunch of us still in school. We lived together and worked together in this commune-style experiment in creative collaboration. I played Herr K, a neighbor to the young troubled girl, I think, it’s all a blur now and designated this mostly using an old fedora and trying to talk in a low voice.

 The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013. Credit: Kyle Cassidy

The Ballad of Joe Hill, 2013. Credit: Kyle Cassidy

What a gorgeous mess! I broke up with my boyfriend, the director, near the end of the process and half of us ended up furious with each other because we would rehearse all day and then have to go home and sleep 10 people in a tiny house with no room to get away from each other. I remember taking the train into Philly from Swarthmore and setting up a dress form mannequin in the courtyard of the old National Museum of American Jewish History (behind the bank on 5th and Market). I did an entire scene puppetting that inanimate mannequin while playing a German man named Herr K. Dear god, we had no idea what we were doing—all the actors wore khaki pants and either a forest green or maroon long sleeved shirt and did vocal warm ups outside the museum’s entrance as homeless people passed by looking at us in mild horror.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Mel Krodman

Posted June 21st, 2016

Name: Mel Krodman

Type of Artist: Performer, creator

Companies: I make and perform work with various ensembles including the Philadelphia-based companies Pig Iron Theatre Company, Team Sunshine Performance Corporation, and No Face Performance Group. And since 2010 I’ve worked in collaborative partnership with New Orleans-based choreographer Kelly Bond.

Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
Elephant, 2010, with Kelly Bond – performer, creator
Colony, 2012, with Kelly Bond – performer, co-choreogrpaher
Swamp Is On, 2015, with Pig Iron Theatre Company and Dr. Dog – performer, creatorIMG_4776

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: Sincerity Project with Team Sunshine Performance Corporation (performer, creator).
Also in November my show JEAN & TERRY: Your Guides Through Dark, Light, and Nebulous will premiere at FringeArts.

First Fringe I attended: The first time I came to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival was with Kelly Bond when we were producing Elephant in 2010.  We were both still living in DC and drove into town in pouring down rain, rushing to make it to the Kimmel on time to see Jérôme Bel’s piece Cédric Andrieux. I was absolutely blown away by this work—instantly impacted, forever changed. As soon as the show was over we jumped back into the car and were rushing (possibly even more than before) to make it to Brian Sanders’ JUNK. It was a truly jam packed evening of dance work at two ends of a spectrum: Bell’s stripped down and Brian’s spectacle. From then on I was in love with Philly and totally hooked on the festival.

First Fringe I participated in: I was a co-creator and performer, along with Lillian Cho, in Kelly’s piece Elephant. Kelly had found a venue that was an artists’ collective—FLUX space—in North Kensington up near Allegheny and Front streets. Our piece was performed entirely in the nude, which was kind of hilarious in this raw space with fine sawdust everywhere. And it was hot out and we were sweating. So you can imagine. But that kind of artists’ space was so inspiring to see. It was my introduction to the badass DIY Philly art scene that I love. It was during this run of Elephant that we met the magnificent Megan Bridge of <fidget> space. She invited us to come back and perform Elephant at <fidget> the following spring. In 2014-15 Kelly and I were yearlong artists in residence with <fidget>, so we have Fringe to thank for launching a significant creative relationship and friendship.

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Fringe at 20 Profile: Corinna Burns

Posted June 2nd, 2016

Name: Corinna Burns

Type of Artist: Theater MakerCorinnaBurns

Fringe shows I’ve participated in: Wow. A lot.
A series of short plays produced by the now-defunct Brick Playhouse performed at the now-defunct Old Original Bookbinders, 1996
Bartleby the Scrivener, the Madmen, 1998 – actor, creator
The Trial, 1999 – adaptor, director
Live at the Apollo Diner, Theatre Exile, 1999 – performer
Live Girls, 2000 – co-creator, performer
Brinksmanship!, Termite TV, Bad Penny Productions, 2001 – co-creator, performer
Little/Yma, Weak Chin Productions, 2004 – actor
Pay Up!, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2005 – performer, creator
Isabella, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2005 and 2013 – performer, creator
Oedipus, Emanuelle Delpeche at FDR, 2008 – actor
Purr Pull Reign, Johnny Showcase, 2009 – Lady Dancer
Raw Stitch, Jackie Goldfinger, 2012 – actor
The End of Hope, the End of Desire, [ad hoc theatre project], 2013 – actor
99 Breakups, Pig Iron Theatre Company, 2014 – performer, creator

2016 Fringe show I’m participating in: I’m not signed up for anything (so far) this year! But that just means I can go see more stuff!

First Fringe I attended: I’ve been Fringe-ing since the beginning. I remember doing these little plays at Bookbinders while people ate their three-course lunches and thinking how exciting it was that Philadelphia now had this special time of the year when people could think about performance in new ways. Even though in that year, that particular project wasn’t super boundary-pushing, we were still performing new plays for an audience of people that would otherwise never have been exposed to them. And in the early years, the Fringe office was on Vine Street and the Fringe Bar was at what I think was a Turkish restaurant across the street, and everything was performed in Old City, so there was a closeness to everything. You’d run from show to show to show because you really could. And everyone would gather at the bar to dance and talk at the end of every night.20160526_135838

First show I produced/created at the Fringe: The first show I produced entirely on my own was an adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial, performed by three actors at the Museum of Jewish American History in their old space. What is most memorable to me about that experience: the number of people who are willing to help you for free! I think the museum gave me the space for free, and the actors basically donated their time, although we split the profits at the end. And that people who don’t know you will come to see your show!!! I’ve never not had audiences for any of my Fringe shows, even the ones that I thought were a disaster and I didn’t want anyone to see (Live Girls)!!

The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: I think I’ve been blessed to be in some of the Fringiest of the Fringe, but I’d have to say that the experience of performing Oedipus at FDR down at FDR Skate Park would top the list. Pure magic. Walking the edge of the bowl in a red satin dress with Pearce Bunting as the blind Oedipus holding on to my yards-long train, audience seated in the other end of the bowl, the chorus of skaters swooping through the space like bats, and the intimacy of all the sound happening through headphones because the atmospheric noise of being under I-95 made it otherwise impossible to hear anything—being so far from the audience but able to whisper in their ears. I feel so blessed to have been a part of that show.

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How to Live Faster: Interview with Dito van Reigersberg of Pig Iron

Posted May 19th, 2015

141005_PIG_IRON_LIVE_FASTER19118Pig Iron Theatre Company’s latest wild theatrical creation opens this week at FringeArts. I Promised Myself to Live Faster is an absurdist sci-fi epic and wild allegory about gayness in 2015, and inspired by the life and works of theater legend Charles Ludlam. We caught up earlier this year with co-creator Dito van Reigersberg while Live Faster was still in development to give us some insight.

FringeArts: How did the idea for I Promised Myself To Live Faster come about?

Dito van Reigersberg: It was a strange and circuitous route to the sci-fi world. Mainly we began with the idea of a Pig Iron piece instigated by me/Martha Graham Cracker, my drag alter-ego. Originally it was called The Melodrama Project and I was interested in going for high-stakes drama but in a kind of camp or ridiculous setting. One exercise we did early on was create characters based on silly voices that we liked and then we tried to retain these goofy voices/characters but play a serious, dramatic scene, with no comment or laughing on the part of the performers. I guess it was a version of what Martha is, a hairy-chested drag queen who is sometimes playing for laughs, sometimes quite unexpectedly serious and sincere.

Then I was doing Irma Vep at Act II, this crazy quick-change romp of a play by Charles Ludlam. And I was reading a biography of Ludlam at the same time. He was also a hairy-chested drag queen, like me! He led an insanely talented and wild group of ragtag performers and made a huge mark on the downtown New York City theater scene. He was one of our director Dan Rothenberg’s heroes; Dan knew all the anecdotes about Ludlam via his High School drama teacher Bill Sweeney.

141005_PIG_IRON_LIVE_FASTER19466Then we thought about making a kind of biopic about Ludlam. His life story is kind of incredible. He was an outcast, a precocious teen—he staged Japanese Noh dramas with his High School friends. In acting school he was told that his acting style was “too enormous” and that he was to be strictly “a character actor,” and then he created this theater company in which he was the star performer, playwright, director, and impresario. His most famous performance was Camille, in which he tragically dies in hairy-chested drag in a performance that also blended the dramatic and the ridiculous; his company in fact was named the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. His real-life death of AIDS at the age of forty-four is the chilling counter to all of the silly joy of his life. And it is haunting, the fact that he played Camille, a character dying of consumption, over and over, as his most famed role.

But eventually, although a biopic did seem possible and exciting, we decided to set ourselves free from the truth and the real history and give ourselves permission to do something as silly and frolicsome as Ludlam, in a Ludlamesque way, sprayed with an Essence du Ludlam.

FringeArts: And the title is from . . . ?

Dito van Reigersberg: Our title comes from a line from Camille. She says: “I knew I would not live as long as the others so I promised myself to live more quickly.”

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Museum of Broken Relationships

Posted September 4th, 2014

I learned about this through Adrienne Mackey‘s Facebook. Adrienne recently ran off to Edinburgh and Zagreb, and found the Museum of Broken Relationships. Wish I could see it, because somehow this has been a year of stresses upon and dissolutions of long-term relationships among my friends. Instead, I’ll probably go see the Pig Iron/Kirk Lynn/Dayna Hanson collab 99 Breakups, taking place over 75 minutes at PAFA, because I’m a glutton for punishment.

99 Breakups
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
118 N. Broad Street
$15 to $29
Dates and times vary. Click here for tickets.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

If You Don’t Know Now You Know: Mini Artist Profiles at Philly Post

Posted September 3rd, 2013

sobelle-the-object-lesson-2Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo runs down 10 notable FringeArts performers worth checking out this year.

It’s a pretty good quick guide to some awesome shows this year, actually: Martha Stuckey of Pay Up, Gunnar Montana of Basement, McKenzie Maula of A Doll’s House, James Michael Baker of Ballad of Joe Hill, Geoff Sobelle of The Object Lesson, Jess Conda of Eternal Glamnation and Pay Up, Scott Sheppard of Go Long Big Softie, Mary Tuomanen of St. Joan, Betrayed, Kevin Glaccum of Dutch Masters, and Brian Sanders of Hush Now Sweet High Heels and Oak.

If you’re looking for somebody to pick some especially adventurous shows for you, you couldn’t do much better than Victor’s list.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Photo of Geoff Sobelle by Lars Jan.

Get Caught Up with “Pay Up”

Posted August 27th, 2013

PayUpTumblrImage

Do you have your mind on your money and your money on your mind? Or perhaps money ain’t a thang? Regardless, visit Pig Iron’s handy tumblr on their 2013 FringeArts remount of Pay Up, where you can find discourse about dollars, a photo of Justin Bieber‘s monkey in quarantine, among other things.

Pig Iron’s Pay Up runs nearly every day September 4 through 22 at Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine Street, Chinatown. $25, times vary.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

This House Is Made of Waste Products Only: Thinking about Kyohei Sakaguchi

Posted September 18th, 2012

Julius Ferraro is a freelance writer in Philadelphia, a former Festival Guide intern, and regular blog contributor.

Kyohei Sakaguchi. Photo via Pig Iron.

One of the 2012 Live Arts Festival highlights is Toshiki Okada and Pig Iron Theatreʼs Zero Cost House. The show is about, among other things, Kyohei Sakaguchi. Though Sakaguchi is relatively unheard-of in the United States, his Zero Yen House project has traveled as close as Canada, and with the sustainability movement in full force here, heʼs a figure who bears extensive discussion.

Sakaguchi is an artist, a documentarian, the author of two books, a musician and illustrator, and an avid blogger and tweeter. He is Bear Grylls crossed with John Lennon. He is an architect who does not build houses, a Tokyo-based artist, a performance architect, and a revolutionary. But it was not until March of 2011 that he became the Prime Minister of Japan.

After the jump: Running the new government, living in a water tank, and questions of freedom.

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The Weekender: What You’re Doing and Why

Posted August 24th, 2012

Rest up and recharge, boys and girls, because we’re only two weeks out from opening weekend of the festivals, holy crap! Here are a few things to get up to this weekend:

>>>All weekend: Explore Edgar Allen Poe, his death, and production documentation at the new most excellent tumblr for Red-eye to Havre de Grace, which opens September 7 at the Live Arts Festival.

>>>All weekend: More exploring. Next week, you’ll read intrepid blog contributor Julius Ferraro’s report on Museum Without Walls, a new way to explore the remarkable collection of 51 sculptures along Benjamin Franklin Parkway and Kelly Drive. Go this weekend, and compare notes with Julius on Monday.

>>>Saturday: The first of two must-do Saturday shows, Megan Mazarick presents DBDP, AKA the David Bowie Dance Project, an informal showing of work set to David Bowie songs at the Mascher Space Cooperative. Dancers include Bethany Formica, David Konyk, Beau Hancock, Lindsay Browning, and others. 8:00 pm. (And don’t forget to check out Megan’s Philly Fringe show, Mining the Mine of the Mind for Minderals.)

>>>Saturday: After DBDP, bust down Frankford Avenue to Johnny Brenda’s. Martha Graham Cracker turns seven, yikes, she’s old stately and handsome. What a dame! Dame Martha. Pre-Martha performances include a special pre-festival performance from the dames of Bang!, who, according to JB’s website, “promise a naked karaoke keytar extravaganza.” Sets start at 9:00 pm.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Today in WTF: Pig Iron?

Posted July 24th, 2012

Is this the video equivalent of robotic blog aggregators? Weirdly, the link included on the YouTube page takes you to a Shanghai-based mining equipment manufacturer. Nonetheless, the video is strangely compelling:

Pig Iron! 2012 Live Arts got Pig Iron! Zero Cost House runs September 5 through 9, September 11 through 16, and September 18 through 22 at the Arts Bank, 601 S. Broad Street, Avenue of the Arts. Times vary, $23-$35.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

More Press!

Posted September 1st, 2011

And the champagne bottle won’t smash on the bow of the 2011 Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe until tomorrow!

>>>For Philadelphia Magazine, Victor Fiorillo writes up ten of the most talented Live Arts and Philly Fringe artists, including Geoff Sobelle (Elephant Room), Sebastienne Mundheim (Paris Wheels and The Ready-Maids present . . . Not the Henri Rousseau that Some of You Know . . .), David Disbrow (Red Rovers), Jess Conda (Heavy Metal Dance Fag, Water Bears in Space, Festival bar!), James Ijames (WHaLE OPTICS), Adrienne Mackey (Lady M), Matt Pfeiffer (The Aliens), Sarah Sanford (Twelfth Night, or What You Will), J.J. Tiziou (photog extraordinaire), and Leah Stein (Rock Reed Tatami Stream).

>>>Today’s City Paper belongs to us: Holly Otterbein talks to the magicians of the Elephant Room, A.D. Amorosi talks to the Rude Mechs about Method Gun, Joshua Middleton writes up four of this year’s puppetry shows, Mark Cofta rounds up some of this year’s Shakespeare, and Shaun Brady writes a big piece on the more experimental edge of the festivals.

>>>The Metro says we’re playful. We agree.

>>>Steven Weisz writes up Red Rovers for The Dance Journal.

>>>I missed this somehow, but the Northeast Times wrote a big piece on the tap show Too Darn Hot!

>>>Christopher Munden rounds up some NoLibs/Fishtown/Kensington picks for The Spirit, including Red Rovers, My Dad is Now Ready for His Sponge Bath, Jericho Road Improvement Association, A Vegan Kids Dance for Adults with Nudity, Task, and Grab Bag. And of course, recommends the Festival Bar for your nightcaps.

>>>Montgomery Newspapers runs big stories on Iron Age’s Christie in Love and MM2’s One Word.

>>>The Chestnut Hill Local profiles Lauren Rile Smith, whose Tangle Movement Arts will present Ampersand at Philly Fringe. Do people in Chestnut Hill actually refer to themselves as “hillers?” Just curious.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Newspaper photo by Daniel R. Blume via Wikimedia Commons.

Red Rovers image by Chris Doyle.

MisInternPretations: “Twelfth Night, or What You Will”

Posted August 12th, 2011

No Weekender today, I’m afraid. But do go see Tangle Movement Arts’ Tiny Circus performance tomorrow at noon in Clark Park. They bring circus arts together with music, drama, and spoken word, and the 2011 Philly Fringe will feature their first full-length performance, Ampersand.

In the meantime, check out the latest installment of MisInternPretations, in which Festival intern and alleged funny person Lulu Krause tries to figure out Twelfth Night, and concludes that, apparently, it’s all about the party.

Pig Iron’s Twelfth Night runs most nights of the Live Arts Festival at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad Street, Center City. Times vary, $20 to $30.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

I Am Theater!

Posted August 12th, 2011

Have you seen this awesome series that Theatre Communications Group is producing? It’s called “I AM THEATRE,” and features theater professionals, including folks like Eric Bogosian and Lou Bellamy, talking about pivotal moments in their lives. Below, watch Mimi Lien talk about her work with Pig Iron. Among other work, Mimi designed the set and animation for the 2010 Live Arts production of Cankerblossom.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Pig Iron Anthology of Plays? Apparently So

Posted August 8th, 2011

The gentlemen of Pig Iron Theater CompanySpeaking of fundraising, these gentlemanly thespians wish to publish a text, possibly to finance the purchase of britches:

Pig Iron Theatre Company, a physical theatre ensemble based in Philadelphia, wishes to publish an anthology of original plays selected from our repertory of 26 performance works. Artifacts of our unusual ensemble-based process, these playscripts span almost the entire 15 years of Pig Iron’s history, and the proposed book as a whole will give a window into Pig Iron’s work as an ensemble, broaden Pig Iron’s reach as a company, allow for other theatres and academic departments to study Pig Iron, and encourage other companies to produce their own versions of these Pig Iron plays. Plays may include CHEKHOV LIZARDBRAIN (OBIE winner 2008), HELL MEETS HENRY HALFWAY (OBIE winner 2005), SHUT EYE (our collaboration with Joseph Chaikin), and GENTLEMEN VOLUNTEERS. Fittingly, the publication of these plays will coincide with the opening of the Pig Iron School of Advanced Performance Training (APT) in the fall of 2011. We will be publishing the volume in association with 53rd State Press, a not-for-profit press that publishes the texts of such notable experimental performers as Nature Theater of Oklahoma and Miguel Gutierrez.

Donations to the cause can be made here. And don’t forget, Pig Iron goes Shakespearean throughout the 2011 Live Arts Festival with Twelfth Night, or What You Will at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad Street, Center City. Dates and times vary, $20 to $30. For tickets, click here.

ALEX TORRA IS not WASTEFUL SPENDING

Posted July 21st, 2011

In December of 2009, LAB Fellow Alex Torra’s job as associate artistic director of Pig Iron Theatre Company popped up in a report on stimulus funds that U.S. Senators Tom Coburn and John McCain felt had been misspent. The pull-quote criticizing the “Clown theatrical production” Welcome to Yuba City, was “. . . a stunningly mean group of foul-mouthed waitresses.” A group that Philadelphians found pretty funny, apparently, since the show’s run at the 2009 Live Arts Festival sold out.

“It brought the community together a little bit,” Alex said. “The money went to pay Yuba City actors [as well], and I think that show speaks for itself.”

Since Yuba City, Alex has been involved in a wide range of projects, including the 2010 Live Arts production Cankerblossom (also from Pig Iron), Punchkapow, a Team Sunshine Performance Corporation project, and he returned to Shakespeare in Clark Park this summer to direct Much Ado About Nothing, which runs through Sunday.

“I’m trying to take methods from doing ensemble work and apply them to a written play. The actors would make a staging proposal. The assignment is to make a scene with a list of rules, using Pig Iron techniques—clarifying narrative and making stage pictures,” Alex said.

Known primarily for original, experimental, and ensemble work, Alex has spent a solid chunk of the year working with Shakespeare. First, he collaborated with Beth Nixon for part of the Missoula Oblongata Secret Shakespeare event in early June (as did an old friend from Buffalo poetry circles, Ric Royer, who’s been doing blazing theater work hi Ric!). Right now, it’s Much Ado About Nothing at Clark Park [SHAMELESS PLUG: Much Ado star Langston Darby is also leading an ensemble cast in DEER HEAD in the Philly Fringe, written by Josh “Stalin” McIlvain]. And today, he started rehearsals for Pig Iron’s Twelfth Night, or What You Will, which will see its world premiere at the 2011 Live Arts Festival.



Prior to his Shakespeare engagements, Alex spent substantial time in the Live Arts Studio as one of the 2010-2011 Live Arts Brewery Fellows.

As a Fellow, Alex said, “You have no choice but to make work that’s fun and means something to you. That’s really daunting and really intense. It’s the first period of time in years that I’ve had the time to make work that is mine.”

For Alex, mine doesn’t mean working alone. “Mine means there are starting points I want to go from, and I’m the arbiter of what’s good. Somebody once called me an ensemblist. I need the group of people to make work,” he said.

“I did a ‘table tour,’ where I sat at a table with objects that represented people and things, to undermine representations. I took everything out of my wallet and played with it. From that showing, some thought it should be a solo show. In order for me to make a solo show I’d have to work out a lot of insecurities and fears. My theater can’t be my therapy. How a piece impacts an audience has to be the most important thing.”

So, Alex said, he took the focus of the “table tour”—an interest in honest presentation—and applied the same ideas to work with an ensemble to develop what he’s calling the Sincerity Project.

“I want theater to do that. For this project, I want theater to be a place where feeling is ok. Some of the work I’ve been exploring is about the complexity of living, about being in the world.”

“The energy of melodrama is out, out, out. The energy of sincerity is small, about the connection. I think the show can max out at 20 attendees at a time. There’s a weird bell that goes off”—as, in a moment of synchronicity, does a bell in the coffee shop where we’re talking—”and I call something a lie. I use that vocabulary a lot—’stop lying.’ When you start putting out work in the sincere style in a larger space, everything felt like a lie. It felt manipulative and kind of empty.”

“Irony is part of it in a major way. In part, it’s a response to seeing young artists making ultra-sincere work. They refuse to be ironic—’here we are, here I am’—I personally would like to indulge that and feel things with them. It’s something about the earnestness and necessity to be heard. But I’m a cheesy person. I live my life pretty sincerely as is. Some of the most spectacular moments of life are where the irony drops away.”

He told me a story about a wedding he attended in Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts, where the microphone was held open for toasts, instead of the traditional best-man/maid-of-honor/maybe-a-parent-too sequence. “Instead of being 10 to 15 minutes of toasts, it was 30 to 45 minutes of intense sincerity. And at the end of the wedding, people started jumping on the dance floor, all up and down at the same time. It was awesome.”

Alex hopes that the Sincerity Project can counter some of what he called the “niggling tediums” that chip away at our ideas of our happiness.

“It’s OK to create a space where you can indulge happiness and purity,” he said. “I think that’s what music and TV do. I watch TV because I can be the laziest I can possibly be. It’s indulgence, a space of your own. Friday Night Lights I love, and Parenthood—they’re about characters going through dramatic emotional events. You travel with them, and there’s some catharsis that happens. Not Greek catharsis, but an indulgence of emotion. I think that’s a good, useful, healthy thing for people to experience.”

“With the Sincerity Project I’m trying to create a 20-minute irony-free zone—to create heaven on earth for twenty minutes.”

Shakespeare in Clark Park’s production of Much Ado About Nothing runs through Sunday night at Clark Park (duh), 43rd Street and Chester Avenue, West Philly. 7:00 pm, free.

Pig Iron’s 2011 Live Arts production of Twelfth Night, or What You Will runs most nights through the entire Live Arts Festival, September 1 through 17, at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia. Times vary, $20 to $30.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Twelfth Night photo by Jason Frank Rothenberg.

News You Can Use! Free Theater and More on the Pig Iron School

Posted July 18th, 2011

>>>Philadelphia Weekly‘s J. Cooper Robb hooks you up with three solid picks for free theater. This week you’ve got PlayPenn starting tomorrow, and Shakespeare in Clark Park’s Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Pig Iron’s Alex Torra, starting Wednesday. Then in August, Shakespeare goes to Rittenhouse Square with Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater’s Classical Acting Academy production of The Comedy of Errors, directed by Rosemary Hay (whose REV Theatre Company will mount The Carthaginians at Laurel Hill Cemetery and in the cemetery of Gloria Dei (Old Swede’s) Church at the 2011 Philly Fringe).

>>>Speaking of Pig Iron, did you read A.D. Amorosi’s lovely piece for the Inquirer on the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training? If not, do so now.

–Nicholas Gilewicz