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Pig Iron Theater Company partners with Georgetown
It’s not often that an experimental play touting a mix of Thoreau and reflection on Japanese natural disasters comes to Georgetown’s campus, but one has arrived–an autobiographical piece by avant-garde Japanese playwright Toshiki Okada, Zero Cost House is the product of a collaboration between Georgetown and acclaimed Pig Iron Theater Company. With the company coming to campus straight from the play’s premiere at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, the Davis Performing Arts Center will be host to a weekend of actors doing everything from wearing rabbit costumes to playing the ukulele as they ponder Okada’s evolving attitude toward Walden in the context of Japan’s recent environmental disasters.
Widely known in international theater circles yet likely unheard of at Georgetown, the Philadelphia-based Pig Iron Theater Company has been praised by the New York Times as “one of the few groups successfully taking theater in new directions” and the Village Voice as “a prodigious talent and discipline.” Having toured a litany of international performance venues in Europe and South America, the company has achieved a truly global reputation.
After showing performances at the Wooly Mammoth Theater and partnering with Georgetown in several workshops, Pig Iron reached out to Georgetown over the summer to bring Zero Cost House to the Davis stage. Though Artistic Director Prof. Derek Goldman was originally reluctant to take on a new production so late, he and the rest of the theater faculty were eager to host a piece from such an acclaimed performance group.
“A lot of our faculty have been influenced and inspired by their work,” he enthused before adding, “it’s always fresh, surprising, fun, strange, and hip.” If anything, Pig Iron’s guest performance is certainly a fantastic opportunity to bring experimental theater to a campus not typically known for a strong presence in the arts.
The collaboration with Pig Iron is also part of the Theater and Performance Studies Program’s greater effort to feature plays that reach outside the campus bubble. According to Goldman, the program endeavors to bring to campus a guest theater production that “captures something true to the curricular approach while being in tandem with the themes of the greater production season.”
The international nature of this Japanese play is also in keeping with the Georgetown theater program’s recent global outreach, says Goldman. Through a campus convention over the summer called the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, artists and policymakers came together to discuss “how performance engages international politics on all kinds of levels.”
The cross-cultural aspects of Zero Cost House are certainly a major part of its attraction on a campus known for its international backbone, as Goldman emphasized the importance of producing plays that is “both cutting-edge and politically engaged, activating the community both artistically and in a manner that inspires social change.”
Furthermore, Pig Iron seeks to directly activate students through their performances. In a workshop boasting the subtle title of “The Ordinary and Extraordinary,” Pig Iron company members will work with students in the Theater and Performance Studies Program to explore how everyday experiences and objects can be, according to Goldman, “elevated into something really beautiful and surreal.” In a press release from the theater program, the workshop is described as inviting students to “turn the spotlight on the awkwardness, beauty, subtle hierarchies, and missed connections that create the fabric of our daily lives.” Simply having the chance to work with recognized stage actors in a series of dramatic exercises is surely an exciting opportunity for theater students.
Since Pig Iron will be at Georgetown for only one weekend, it has a short time to make a serious impression on students and the rest of the campus community. Goldman showed great confidence in its ability to both entertain and inspire, observing that Zero Cost House is “not just entertainment for entertainment’s sake but truly demonstrates how theater engages a wider discourse in culture.” With such international acclaim and success behind it, one can only hope the company will live up to the hype.