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Pig Iron Theatre Company

Philadelphia, PA         

The mission of Pig Iron Theatre Company is to expand the possibilities of performance by creating rigorous, exuberant works of ensemble-devised theatre; by training the next generation of daring, innovative theatre artists; and by always asking the hardest questions, both in our art and in its relation to the world around us.

Since its inception, the primary activity of Pig Iron has been the creation, performance, and touring of original works. Our plays are collaboratively generated by an ensemble of artists (including actors, directors, designers, and other collaborators); by working in this way, Pig Iron creates room for unexpected discoveries in its developmental processes, and allows its artists to pursue personal dreams, fascinations, challenges, and obsessions. By creating and touring original work, we have made a place for ourselves in the local, national, and international conversations about contemporary performance.

Since its inception in 1995, Pig Iron Theatre Company has grown from a small, fringe performance troupe into one of the best-known ensembles of its kind in America. During that time, the company has created over 25 original works, garnering praise from our audiences, peers, and critics; The New York Times hailed us as “one of the few groups successfully taking theatre in new directions.” In the last decade, Pig Iron has been consistently recognized as one of the foremost American companies who are pioneering new working methods and formal innovations in theatre. This recognition has been confirmed by Pig Iron’s multiple appearances at internationally-renowned festivals of contemporary performance like Under the Radar; by the company’s receipt of two OBIE Awards (Off-Broadway’s highest honor), an extreme rarity for a company working outside of New York;  by two feature articles in AMERICAN THEATRE appearing in the past four years (including the magazine’s cover article in 2010); and by tours to 12 countries on 4 continents.

In 2011, we opened the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training, a two-year training program for performers; our first class of 15 students graduated in June of this year.  One hundred percent of APT’s alumni have had performance jobs since graduation. One has received a Fox Foundation Actor Fellowship from Theatre Communications Group that includes a $15,000 stipend (one of 6 awards given out nationally); two have been named FreshTracks artists at the New York Live Arts (former Fresh Tracks artists include Bill T. Jones, Bebe Miller, Tere O’Connor and others); three were named “emerging artists to watch” by Philadelphia Magazine and another has toured work of her own creation to several US cities and to Sweden. One alum is now the Artistic Director of Brat Productions and another is Resident Director at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.  About half of the alums have performed with Pig Iron, primarily in 2013’s remount of PAY UP at the FringeArts Festival. There are budding collaborative projects between some of our alumni and some of the national artists who spoke at our seminars or spent some time in residence with us.  

Over the past 20 years, Pig Iron has created 26 original works through our intense, collaborative, and highly physical process. Our eclectic body of work ranges from a dance-theatre contemplation of death and grief (LOVE UNPUNISHED) to an exploration of the mythic American West (WELCOME TO YUBA CITY) to a vitriolic battle of wills and tennis based on a Polish pulp novel (HELL MEETS HENRY HALFWAY).

As a company performing ensemble-created work, one of our consistently articulated goals has been to always try “the next hardest thing.” Many times, this “next hardest thing” entails a daunting challenge or a glimmer of possibility left over from a past creative process; the Pig Iron process means a kind of acting research that engages the ensemble, with contributions from a writer, with designers in the room making proposals in collaboration with the actors, and is led by the director. This research includes pieces made from the director’s assignments, as well as improvisations and adaptations of source material.

2013 saw tours of ZERO COST HOUSE to the Under The Radar Festival in New York and then to the Arts Market in Yokohama, Japan. We re-mounted PAY UP at the FringeArts Festival, collaborating with University of the Arts and many Pig Iron School alumni.  We re-worked and presented our 2011 hit TWELFTH NIGHT complete with a 5-person Balkan band at the FringeArts new venue in December and for three weeks at Abrons Art Center in New York in February 2014, receiving a NY Times review stating the “whole production…pretty dazzling.”  

SWAMP IS ON, premiered in 2015, was an innovative rock spectacle, a collaboration between Pig Iron and popular indie rock band Dr. Dog. Based on Dr. Dog’s album Psychedelic Swamp, the project drew inspiration from traditional “rock opera” stagings (a la Roger Waters’ The Wall); and the anarchic joy of concert spectacles like those of the Flaming Lips. This hybrid of concert and narrative employed new techniques of visual storytelling with rock music. Through the course of the project, Pig Iron taught musicians to act and speak text, coached actors to feel comfortable singing, and worked with puppeteers, dancers, and musicians to create an immersive world within the venue of a rock club.

Pig Iron Trailer

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