In the fall of 2011, Pig Iron Theatre Company embarked on a new chapter in its history as an experimental theater collaborative, launching the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training. A group of eager and talented performers, interested in learning the company's methods for creating avant-garde ensemble theater, became the first class to enroll in the school's two-year certificate program. The school's website describes the institution, supported by an organizational development grant from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through its former Management initiative, as a center of creation—dynamic, energetic, messy, collaborative and ever-evolving, composed of forward-thinking theater-makers with a desire to expand the boundaries of what live performance can be.
School director Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel treated a pair of Center staff members to a glimpse of an acrobatics class, during which he worked with students on fluidity of movement, individually and in collaboration. This acrobatics session was one of the program's integral first-year classes, focusing on the fundamental building blocks of live performance. Watch our video clips of these performing artists in action:
Why a school and why at that moment? In a Newsworks article, Bauriedel stressed the importance of bringing new talent and personalities to Pig Iron as a means of further developing the company's work: "We're always evolving and changing. If that ever starts to get stale—that's dangerous. A school is a way to transmit these ideas to a new generation, to continue this mode of theater. Hopefully it will be the next chapter of this company." Once enrolled in the school, students learn Pig Iron's concept of "total theater," and train toward the skills the company deems necessary for being "a 21st-century theater artist": physical conditioning, movement analysis, acrobatics, voice, play, improvisation, theater creation, and dance. Noted faculty members include Geoff Sobelle (a 2011 Center grant recipient for Elephant Room and a 2006 Pew Fellow) and Bauriedel, Dan Rothenberg, and Dito van Reigersberg (2002 Pew Fellows).
Pig Iron focused on its inaugural class for the first two years of the program, in order to grow as a learning institution before the second class arrived in 2013. The overall goal of the school has been to instruct and inspire performers in order to create "immediate and arresting theater," and to encourage emerging artists to continue their work within the Philadelphia arts community. In this way, Pig Iron has continued to grow as a critically praised and forward-thinking performing arts company, while contributing to the region's reputation as a destination for unique, experimental theater.