Founded in 1995 as an interdisciplinary ensemble, Pig Iron Theatre Company is dedicated to the creation of new and exuberant performance works that defy easy categorization.
The mission of Pig Iron Theatre Company is to expand what is possible in performance by creating rigorous and unusual ensemble-devised works; by training the next generation of daring, innovative theatre artists; and by consistently asking the hardest questions, both in our art and in its relation to the world around us.
Over the course of its lifespan, Pig Iron has created over 30 original works and has toured to festivals and theatres in England, Scotland, Poland, Lithuania, Brazil, Ireland, Japan, Italy, Romania and Germany, among others. Individual works have been inspired by history and biography (Poet In New York, 1997 and Anodyne, 2001), rock music (Mission to Mercury, 2000 and Swamp is On, 2015), American kitsch culture (Cafeteria, 1997 and Welcome to Yuba City, 2009), scientific research (Pay Up, 2005/2013 and Chekhov Lizardbrain, 2007) and our relationship to our geologic time (A Period of Animate Existence, 2017 and Superterranean, 2019). In 2001, Pig Iron collaborated with legendary theatre director Joseph Chaikin (1935-2003) to create an exploration of sleep, dreams, and consciousness (Shut Eye). Beginning in 2018 the company embarked on “Adventures in Authorship.” Building on two-decades of collaborative and ensemble-based work, Pig Iron invited designers and performers to lead projects in order to explore new models of creative authority with mature artists, expanding Pig Iron’s aesthetic range; and to upend long-held assumptions about the power dynamics in rehearsal rooms. In 2020, Pig Iron remounted its 2012 piece Zero Cost House by Toshiki Okada as a play for Zoom, earning accolades from New York Magazine and being named a New York Times Critics’ Pick.
In 2005, Pig Iron won an OBIE Award for Hell Meets Henry Halfway, an adaptation of Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz's novel Possessed; in 2008, Pig Iron won a second OBIE for James Sugg's performance in Chekhov Lizardbrain. Pig Iron's staging of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (2011) was nominated for ten Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, winning four, and enjoyed sold-out performances at Philadelphia Theater Company and later at Abrons Art Center in NYC (2013). Pig Iron has been named Theatre Company of the Year by Philadelphia Weekly and Philadelphia City Paper.
In 2011, Pig Iron launched a 2-year graduate program in physical and devised theater at a new home in North Philadelphia. In 2015, the company partnered with University of the Arts to offer both a Graduate Certificate and an MFA in Devised Performance. In addition to offering an MFA and Certificate to full-time students, Pig Iron School also hosts professional workshops in physical theatre and devising practices every winter and summer.
In 2018, Pig Iron received a Center Project grant to create Superterranean, a design-driven theater work springing from MacArther Fellow and Tony Award-winner Mimi Lien's fascination with how architectural form influences human behavior. Pig Iron received another Center Project grant to collaborate with filmmaker, writer, and director Josephine Decker on The Pregnant Speakeasy (working title), a devised performance work that will blend theatre, installation, cabaret, and visual projection to reveal and celebrate the power of the pregnant body, led by Decker and co-directed by Decker and Dan Rothenberg due to premiere at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival 2022.
Pig Iron performed Love Unpunished at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival 2021, a show which originally premiered during the 2006 Fringe Festival. With the 20-year anniversary of the Twin Towers' collapse arriving on the heels of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, Pig Iron returns to this contemplative, deceptively simple piece. Without any direct reference to the World Trade Center, Love Unpunished invites audiences to contemplate the simple, distinctive movement of bodies decending stairs, evacuating, confused about when to panic and when to stay calm. In the same year, Pig Iron was also awarded a $10,000 Grant for Arts Projects from the National Endowment for the Arts. This award will further support The Path of Pins or The Path of Needles.
In 2022, Pig Iron received a Re:imagining Recovery Grant in order to hire its first director of a new digital, film, and interactive initiative to lead the company's extension into digital content creation, in conjunction with an advisory group focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
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