Professor Christian DuComb speaks with Philly.com about the long, shameful history of blackface in Philadelphia.
The Department of Theater hosted the Pig Iron Theater Company as Artists in Residence at Colgate from February 20-26, 2017. Founded in 1995 and based in Philadelphia, PA, they are dedicated to the creation of new and exuberant works that defy easy categorization. Why? Well, first off, they are masters in “devised performance.” Secondly, they are Masters. If you missed them you must seek them out elsewhere!
Devised performance has foundations associated with Lecoq pedagogy, and includes channels of explorations in movement, improvisation, and ensemble creations. Devised performance advocates creativity as dialogue rather than monologue; actors and directors work together in an improvisational setting to create characters and plays wholly “owned” by the ensemble.
Following their Saturday afternoon performance they had a round table discussion with those interested. The following is transcribed from their engagement:
Participant: “Given your understanding from your journeys and your discoveries, why is Theater important for a student’s life, whether they are in an audience, engaged in theater, or for their life and professional skills?”
Response by Pig Iron: “One important aspect about Theater is the sense of ensemble it creates and that every person in the room is of great value. A lot of the time spent in both rehearsing the show every night along with singing together or stretching together or running around the room together and visualizing the room as a group of people serving something bigger than us rather than a bunch of individuals each playing their part.
“To further that statement, I think something that is important for young people that can be difficult, and is maybe something that I may have noticed in our audience members, is a guardedness and unwillingness to be vulnerable and I think that in an ensemble and especially Theater, it is important to be vulnerable. There is a fair amount of failure but there is also an equal amount of lifting back up again which is such an important aspect of Theater to reveal yourself to all of the beauty that comes with that opening.”
Professor Adrian Giurgea: “Theater is really a group exercise and that it’s about a complex identity and Theater selects people who cannot be alone.”
Response by Pig Iron: “I think the thing that has been really exciting for me has been to add the craft of performance, to the process of writing and process of making things. I wanted to be a writer when I was in my young twenties, I thought I was going to write, you know, stories and novels, and I was terrible at it. And it was for this reason that I hated the solitary practice of sitting down but I really loved playing with words and I love crafting things and just being alone and not being with people giving me, you know, information and things to play with. So, I would say the process of figuring out how to write and then trying to decide what is important to say and what is relevant has been the great ongoing question every time you go to make a piece. Every time Pig Iron makes a piece they ask big questions and the piece comes out of those questions, the DNA of the piece rests in like: “Well for this, we have to do this, we have to, you know, have this kind of style, this kind of vocabulary” and so the piece grows from these really hard questions. If you’re making a piece on things you know about or you feel certainty about, then it may not be a good piece. We always start with questions to which we don’t know the answers yet. We are actively working out answers to our own issues and problems through performance and experimentation.
“Through the arts, in a way I feel like we have the possibility to stage an alternative reality and to create work that offers an alternative vision of what things can look and feel like. The look like you can find in film or television, but the feel like is something that I think Theater offers that no other art can. This is because we invite people into a room and we alter the energetic space and that’s something that cannot be translated through those other mediums.”
Professor Adrian Giurgea: “We are resisting the formality that takes over us when we perform.”
Response by Pig Iron: “There are things going on in the world recently and the value of showing up is so clear to me at this moment. You know, I mean, two years ago, a year ago, eight months ago a lot of people with lot of opinions shared in their own houses. Now those people are showing up and being together and making a social agreement to be in a space and time and to do a something is the difference between war and not war, the difference between this President and this President.”
Pig Iron Theater Company 2017 Artists in Residence
- Melissa Krodman
- Leonard Luvera
- Dan Rothenber
- Matteo Scammell
- Scott Sheppard
- Joshua Totora
- Andalyn Young
Colgate University thanks you for your contributions!
The Pig Iron Theater Company engagement is funded through the Mid Atlantic Tours program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is also provided by the Christian A. Johnson Foundation. Colgate University’s Arts Council, Department of History, Department of Art and Art History, and the Department of Theater also provided generous support.
Belleville, by Amy Herzog, a full length drama brings to life young Americans Zack, and Abby, who have the perfect ex-pat life in Paris: a funky bohemian apartment in the up-and- coming neighborhood of Belleville; a stable marriage; and Zack’s noble mission to fight pediatric AIDS. But when Abby finds Zack, at home one afternoon when he’s supposed to be at work, the questions and answers that follow shake the foundations of their seemingly beautiful life.
Starring Fiona A. Boateng, Jonathan Burton, Tariro Chinyanganya, and Abdel Aziz B. Sanogo. Belleville is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.
- Directed by: Adrian Giurgea
- Scenic Design by: Marjorie Kellogg
- Costume Design by: Fiona A. Boateng
- Lighting Design by: Haoqi Xia
- Technical Direction by: Joel Morain
“Belleville” was presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC.
Yesterday…seems so far away…but not really. It is imprinted in my being. I am new to the Department. It has been an interesting journey to this point, I’m a little over a month in. I love Theater (yes, it deserves to be capitalized.), I love film, I love stories, and I love characters. So, in my imagination, I believe I will love this new position as the Administrative Assistant (AA) for Colgate University Department of Theater. What a mouthful…
The days before yesterday have been filled with learning: new names; places; protocols; software and platforms (I convinced myself to call them electronic forms so they wouldn’t seem so daunting). Meetings and deadlines have pretty much consumed my efforts – until yesterday.
Opening night of the Belleville Production. Yes, the deadlines very much included this as a goal, but it wasn’t my goal. It was a deadline. I saw the student actors and crew often. As an AA I smile at them, knowing they are students with demanding schedules and conflicting lives. And I leave the office, situated adjacent to the theater – Brehmer Theater. I saw the set. Sometimes I saw the students gathered around their Director, Adrian Giurgea. Each day as I would leave my office, and the Theater was there—filled with empty seats and stage set, but empty—I knew something more happened there when I left.
Each morning, I would have a new report, telling me in cryptograph, what happened in my absence. I would scan the report for my name or any “To Do’s” that might be generated for me.
Opening night for me meant, “Did I meet all my deadlines? Were they met well? Will our efforts generate enough interest to fill the seats?” And of course there was also my self-talk: “What is my role? How should I dress?”
At curtain call I was shaking. Not cold, not hot, just physically a tiny tremor throughout my being. Then a brief announcement about the production, and slowly, the characters caught my attention. (Why slowly when they start on stage? Hmm…)
And literally, within minutes, my sense of place and being are transformed from the Brehmer Theater, adjacent to my office, to a small apartment in Belleville, France. I am mesmerized. The set that I saw every day became alive, a character in Belleville as much as the living, breathing beings who temporarily inhabit the skin of characters from the pages of a play I read during my lunch one day.
For almost two hours, I am consumed by the scenes in front of me, happening adjacent to my office. (I want you to come experience the play yourself so no spoilers here!!) I think more than consumed and transported, I was indescribably awestruck.
I have images from a movie, “Night At the Museum,” where havoc is wreaked in the ‘closed’ hours of the Natural Museum of History. I thought how Brehmer Theater was akin to this…a place for me of deadlines, papers, electronic forms, an office, lives its own entity with its own stories at night. To the general passerby, the Brehmer Theater leaves much untold.
The student cast and crew, have their lives, their own obligations to being Colgate students. I know these rigors and demands myself, not at Colgate, but still…So when I see them become new people, in a new place, from a place very familiar and set in stone (perhaps literally?!) I stop shaking, but not really, it is more that the shaking takes on a new dimension. I’m rocked to my core.
The discipline, dedication, teamwork, talent, and courage by everyone involved leave me speechless. I don’t even think about what I’m wearing or the next deadline. I’m in Belleville.
And that was yesterday. I now have an living, breathing story and Belleville to gauge my perspective. I know, beyond theory, why the work I do matters, why the deadlines are important. I am humbled and proud at the same time, to be part of the team. I rise to my feet in applause for everyone behind opening night of Belleville.
And up next, 4 more opportunities to be transported and transfixed. You too can join, Brehmer Theater, Thursday – Saturday @ 7 pm, and last chance, Sunday, Feb. 12 @ 2pm!
No theater production can be successful without significant teamwork. Here is just a bit of what it takes:
Don’t feel lonely all alone. Quit your cruising through reality television and YouTube self-help. Take a one-way trip to Mars with the Medium Theatre Company in ONE WAY RED. First, spacewalk through a constellation of performance and visual art installations, each floating detached in deep space. Then, follow one woman’s journey from a bedroom floor in Waltham, MA to the surface of the Red Planet in a solo performance awash in a sea of red Netflix sleeves and iron oxide dust. The next rocketship to Mars blasts off in t-5…4…3…2…
- Co-created and performed by: Dani Solomon ’13
- Co-created and directed by: Mason Rosenthal
- Designed by: Morgan Fitzpatrick Andrews
- Costumes by: Rebecca Kanach
Together, Dani, Mason, and Morgan make up the Medium Theatre Company.
ONE WAY RED is performed with support from the Rutherford Hall Foundation and Colgate University.
On October 6, the Medium Theatre Company offers a once in a lifetime opportunity to journey to the surface of the Red Planet in a special performance of ONE WAY RED, sponsored by the Colgate University Arts Council, the Department of Theater, and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Lucky for audiences, this Mars is conveniently located on the Colgate campus. ONE WAY RED is an interdisciplinary work of science fiction in the Atrium of the Ho Science Center. The show will be performed on October 6 at 7:00 p.m. Admission is free.
The Mediums’ ONE WAY RED is a meditation on why we look to other planets to solve our earthbound problems. Based on accounts of applicants to join Mars One, a real-life non-profit dedicated to establishing the first human colony (and reality TV show) on Mars, ONE WAY RED is a solo journey from a bedroom floor in Waltham, MA to the surface of the Red Planet. ONE WAY RED follows the story of a young woman, played by Dani Solomon ’13, willing to put faith in a mission with an improbable chance for success. Our anti-heroine, awash in a vast desert of empty Netflix sleeves, broadcasts her reality TV confessionals back to Earth in monologues, folk songs, and movement.
“Mars holds a lot of space in today’s collective conversation, from NASA’s plans to visit Mars in the 2030s and Mars One looking to colonize the planet before them,”says Solomon, lead artist and performer. “Are we taking another giant leap for mankind? Are we running away from Earth? Or is it both?”
ONE WAY RED is co-created and directed by Mason Rosenthal, with Morgan Fitzpatrick Andrews as lead designer. Together, Solomon, Rosenthal, and Andrews make up the Medium Theatre Company.
Colgate Theater Department alumnae Nick Gillette ’06 and Dani Solomon ’13 were recently featured on the WHYY radio program News Works Tonight (audio starts at 15:14) as the next generation of experimental theater artists in Philadelphia.
Both Gillette and Solomon have remained closely connected to Colgate. Gillette’s company Almanac Dance Theater brought their piece Communitas to campus as Christian A. Johnson Artists-in-Residence in the spring semester of 2016, and Solomon will perform her solo show One Way Red at Colgate this October.
Young Americans Zack and Abby have the perfect expatriate life in Paris: a funky bohemian apartment in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Belleville; a stable marriage; and Zack’s noble mission to fight pediatric AIDS. But when Abby finds Zack at home one afternoon when he’s supposed to be at work, the questions and answers that follow shake the foundation of their seemingly beautiful life.
Directed by Adrian Giurgea
Open auditions, all welcome, no experience necessary
Dear class of 2020,
What does it mean to study theater in college? In his Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, published for the first time in 1550, Giorgio Vasari tells the story of Michelangelo’s most beautiful statue. Piero de’ Medici, the ruler of Florence asked the sculptor to make in his courtyard a statue of snow. Of course, the statue vanished without a trace. It survives only as the memory of something fleeting, unrepeatable, fragile, and unique.
This is the story of theater, the only art form that is not reproducible, the only art form that is made from the immaterial substance of our dreams. If life exists, theater exists. If theater didn’t exist, then life wouldn’t exist, either.
Here, in its transitory and brief identity, resides theater’s particular strength, to express complex truths with visual and verbal clarity. At Colgate, in our Theater Department, we teach theater by making theater. The lesson of theater is not a theoretical one but a human idea of theater, which is a poetic art, the art of equilibrium, the metaphor of our life. Because, in the end, you are the transitory substance from which theater is made–you and your sense of adventure, your imagination, your curiosity, your hunger for knowledge. What we, our teachers offer in return, is dialog in creative conduit and our desire to explore and reimagine great works of art as mirrors for your generation.
Professor and Chair, Department of Theater