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Pig Iron Theatre Company, Philadelphia’s acclaimed creators of interdisciplinary performance, and Swarthmore College will co-present 10 performances of Love Unpunished, a hypnotic dance-theater piece about the moments just before the collapse of the World Trade Center, as part of the 2021 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, presented by FringeArts. Set on 20 feet of escape stairs, this mostly wordless hour-long piece asks audiences to contemplate the ordinariness and confusion of evacuees who wonder: Is this an emergency or is this a drill? Directed by Dan Rothenberg and David Brick, with an acclaimed, iconic set design by MacArthur Fellow and Tony Winner Mimi Lien, Love Unpunished runs September 3-11, 2021 at the Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.
In Love Unpunished, waiters, traders, administrators, custodians, secretaries, bike messengers — the denizens of any metropolitan skyscraper — move from panic into a ghost world of memory and loss. Some are unconcerned, some are in shock, and some run for their lives. Love Unpunished draws from a simple palette of movement to open up the unreal space between life and death, a space of tenderness that lies within catastrophe. The work originally premiered in 2006 — but with the 20-year anniversary of the Towers’ collapse arriving on the heels of an unprecedented pandemic, Pig Iron’s artistic directors felt compelled to return to this contemplative piece, a piece that centers the fragility of the human body amid enormous forces.
“When tragedy is all around us, we feel this impulse toward tenderness, and then the need to steel ourselves, and then we flip back to tenderness – and this piece is an invitation to stay with that tenderness,” explains Rothenberg. “Love Unpunished is an attempt to reconnect with the human impulses we felt watching the catastrophes that have become defining moments of our generation — both the anger and the empathy, as well as those strange feelings which have no name, feelings which rise unbidden and which can’t find a place in political discourse.”
Though made in response to the events of 9/11, Love Unpunished does not make any specific reference to the World Trade Center, but rather invites audiences to contemplate the simple, distinctive movement of bodies descending stairs, evacuating, confused about when to panic and when to stay calm. Love Unpunished highlights the ordinariness and confusion of the evacuees, and in doing so asks audiences to contemplate the space of grief in response to collective tragedy; to search for the possibility of tenderness in the face of politically-charged catastrophes; and to reimagine the sensation of time itself in moments of rupture and violence.
The piece features an iconic scenic design from longtime company member, MacArthur Fellow and Tony-winner Mimi Lien, and lighting design by Tony-winner Tyler Micoleau. It is co-directed by Pig Iron’s founder Dan Rothenberg and Bessie Award winning choreographer David Brick. Reprising their original roles from Pig Iron’s core ensemble are Pig Iron co-founders Quinn Bauriedel and Dito van Reigserberg; Hinako Arao, Makoto Hirano, and Wendy Staton. Pig Iron adds Jordan Deal, Jenna Horton, Jaime Maseda, and Kyle Vincent Terry to the ensemble.
The full production team includes Dan Rothenberg (Concept and Direction), David Brick (Choreography and Co-Director), Mimi Lien (Scenic Design), Tyler Micoleau (Lighting Design), Oana Botez (Costume Design), Sadah Espii Proctor (Sound Design & Additional Composition), Troy Herion and Sean Mattio (Original Composition), Deborah Stein (Consulting Playwright), Zaina Dana (Assistant Director), Adam Swez (Production Stage Manager), Leslie Ann Boyden (Stage Manager), Steph Smith (Assistant Stage Manager), Toby Petitt (Audio Consultant), Elliot Konstant (Lighting Supervisor), Flannel and Hammer and Seth Thomas Schmitt-Hall (Technical Director), and Ian Morales Gaskin (Production Management Intern).
Performances are Friday 9/3 at 8pm, Saturday 9/4 at 2pm & 8pm, Sunday 9/5 at 4pm, Wednesday 9/8 at 8pm, Thursday 9/9 at 6pm & 9pm, Friday 9/10 at 8pm, Saturday 9/11 at 2pm & 8pm. Tickets are $30 (general) and $15 (students and 25-and-under). Membership discounts available. Purchase at fringearts.com/loveunpunished or by calling the FringeArts box office at 215.413.1318. Wheelchair accessible. Running time is 60 minutes.
Major support for this project has been provided to the Pig Iron Theatre Company by The William J. Cooper Foundation, Swarthmore College, and Independence Foundation.
DAVID BRICK is Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Headlong Dance Theater, a platform for performance research and grassroots artist support, founded in Philadelphia in 1993. David collaborates broadly in making dance and participatory installations. Collaborators include Ishmael Houston Jones, Eiko Otake, Rosie Herrera, Dan Rothenberg, Maiko Matsushima, Mimi Lien, Keely Garfield and Reggie Wilson. Headlong’s work has been supported by Creative Capital, numerous NEA grants, and the MAP fund. He has been honored with a Bessie and a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. His large-scale public art project The Quiet Circus (www.thequietcircus.com) – a collaboration with curator Mary Jane Jacob – was a weekly public performance that took place on an urban river site in Philadelphia over the course of a year and a half. His writings about art practice as a form of thinking and experience can be found on The Quiet Circus Blog.
MIMI LIEN is a designer of sets and environments for theater, dance, and opera. She is a company member at Pig Iron Theatre Company, an artistic associate at the Civilians, resident designer at BalletTech, and co-founder of JACK, a performance/art space in Brooklyn. She was named a 2015 MacArthur Fellow, and is the first set designer ever to achieve this distinction.
Selected theater designs include Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812 (Tony Award, Lortel Award, Hewes Design Award), An Octoroon (Drama Desk and Lortel nominations, Soho Rep/TFANA), Appropriate (LA Drama Critics Circle Award, Mark Taper Forum), John (Hewes Design Award, Signature Theatre), Preludes and The Oldest Boy (Lincoln Center), Stop Hitting Yourself (Rude Mechs/LCT3), Black Mountain Songs (BAM Next Wave), and Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music (St. Ann’s Warehouse) and A Period of Animate Existence (Pig Iron/FringeArts). Mimi’s designs for dance have been presented in the Netherlands, Russia, and Taiwan. Her installation/public art work includes Model Home, a commission for La Jolla Playhouse’s 2017 Without Walls Festival (WoW); 2×4 Tree, a kinetic sculpture created for the 2016 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA), [add lincoln center design]
DAN ROTHENBERG is a Philadelphia-based director and creator of experimental performance. As co-founder and co-artistic director of Pig Iron Theatre Company, Dan has directed and co-created almost all of Pig Iron’s original performance works. Together with Quinn Bauriedel and Dito van Reigersberg, he received a Pew Fellowship in Performance Art (2002) and a USA Artists Knight Fellowship (2010). With Pig Iron, Rothenberg has directed and co-created more than 30 original works, including the OBIE-winning productions Hell Meets Henry Halfway (2005) and Chekhov Lizardbrain (2010).
ABOUT PIG IRON THEATRE COMPANY: The mission of PIG IRON THEATRE COMPANY is to expand what is possible in performance by creating rigorous, unusual, ensemble-devised works. The New York Times says, “Pig Iron is one of the few companies taking theatre in new directions.”
Founded in 1995 as an interdisciplinary ensemble, Pig Iron has created over 30 original works and has toured to festivals and theatres in England, Scotland, Poland, Brazil, Ireland, Japan, Italy, Romania, Sweden and Germany, among others, with stops at the Under the Radar Festival, the Humana Festival, TR Warszawa, Woolly Mammoth, Dance Theater Workshop, and the Tokyo Performing Arts Market. The many creative residencies that have incubated the company’s work include Baryshnikov Arts Center, the Public, La Jolla Playhouse, the Orchard Project, EMPAC, and the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities.
Pig Iron has no “house style,” and the company has made a name for itself with creations that range from site-specific works to hybrid cabarets to works of clown-theater and of visual spectacle. Notable collaborators include legendary director Joseph Chaikin; composers Troy Herion and Cynthia Hopkins; playwrights Toshiki Okada and Will Eno; and ensembles such as the Crossing, Contemporaneous, Sweden’s Teater Slava, and the indie rock band Dr. Dog.
The company has won two OBIE Awards, and has been nominated for 2 Helen Hayes awards and 39 Barrymore Awards, winning 13. 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 2020, Pig Iron weathered the pandemic with its signature commitment to reinvention – creating an iPhone app adventure, teaching its MFA students to create short films, and presenting an acclaimed adaptation of Zero Cost House, a collaboration with visionary Japanese playwright Toshiki Okada, on Zoom. Stay tuned for more adventures in the digital sphere as Pig Iron brings its cross-disciplinary work from dance and theater in the worlds of podcasts and streaming apps.
For more info visit PigIron.org. Like them on Facebook at /PigIronTheatreCo and follow on Twitter and Instagram at @PigIronTheatre.