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 SheppardJoshua Totora
- Andalyn Young
Colgate University thanks you for your contributions!