Pig Iron starts residency at University
Deborah Yarchun and Caitlin Gray
Issue date: 1/20/06 Section: Entertainment
Gentleman Volunteers is an Obie-award winning, site-specific, physical theatre piece centered on a romantic relationship between two ambulance drivers and two Red Cross nurses during WWI. Featuring an elaborate, actor-controlled lighting set-up, live sound effects by Barrymore and Otto Haas award winner James Sugg, pantomime and audience interaction, the show is performed with minimal set and no props. Originally produced in 1998 in a Philadelphia church basement, it has since toured to sold-out houses in Edinburgh, New York, London, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Romania, Germany and now continues its run at Drexel's Armory until Jan. 22.
"Pig Iron is not only one of the hottest and most creative theatre companies in Philadelphia; they are also internationally known and highly respected in New York and on the entire East Coast," said Nick Anselmo, head of the MPiRP, in reference to the unique nature of the show. "I hope students, faculty and staff of the entire University will at the very least come and see the shows. It is a very different kind of theatre that I think everyone will enjoy."
Pig Iron Theatre finds its place at Drexel this year as the first participants of the MPiRP. Through MRiRP, theater companies are brought in to teach workshops and provide opportunities for students in exchange for use of Drexel's performance spaces. MPiRP was developed out of a similar philosophy to the Performing Art Department's dance residence program in which professional dance companies teach and create choreography for students in exchange for the use of Mandell.
Ditto van Reigersberg, co-founder and co-artistic director, spoke excitedly of the consistency MPiRP offers their company. "The residency at Drexel definitely impacts Pig Iron in a positive way. It gives us a space to show our work and defrays cost, which is important for a non-profit group. It also allows us to stay in one place rather than moving around to different theatres."
Pig Iron Theatre's residence has opened up workshops and internships for Drexel students. Involvement is not limited to students interested in theater. The cross-discipline program opens up opportunities for students in such areas as film, TV, dance, arts administration, screenwriting and playwriting to architecture.
"The partnership will augment students' coursework," Anselmo said. "It will offer hands-on, applied learning with professionals. If the students take full advantage of the program they can learn a lot and make some incredible connections in the professional world."
In addition to Gentleman Volunteers, students and faculty can look forward to a musical inspired by the music of Queen, Mission to Mercury; a one-man show about Federico Garcia Lorca, Poet in New York; a black comedy, Hell Meets Henry Halfway; and the premiere of an entirely new dance-theatre piece, Love Unpunished. Pig Iron Theatre will also host a commedia del Arte workshop on Jan. 28 and 29 and another workshop on Feb. 25. Both workshops are free and open to students.
Although the Pig Iron has done residencies at school's in the past, managing director Jerre Brisky is thrilled to have the Pig Iron at Drexel.
"At Drexel, we'll be working for a very long period in the heart of our hometown, and we're thrilled by the energy and creativity that Drexel's students bring to the table. We're hoping that the students involved with Pig Iron's residency will learn a lot about creating theatrical work and the mechanics of staging a season. We're also hoping that students learn more about the amazing, vibrant performing-arts community here in Philadelphia," Brisky said.
Co-artistic director Dan Rothenberg centers the company's excitement around the use of Mandell Theater, connecting with students and the below-25 audience, and becoming a cultural presence in West Philadelphia.
Mission to Mercury, a cabaret-ballet based on the music of Queen and Pig Iron's first production at Mandell Theater, will open Feb. 17. Poet in New York opens March 22 and will include some shows in Spanish, Henry Meets Henry Halfway opens April 12 and their final production Love Unpunished opens June 2.
For more information regarding the Mandell Professionals in Residence Program or the workshops contact Anselmo at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about Pig Iron theatre check out www.pigiron.com.