Friday, March 28, 2008

Guest Post: Alex Torra, International Man of Mystery

Hi LePig Blog Readers,

I thought I’d, as they say in corporate circles, “reach out” to you, say hello, see how things are out there in cyberland, and introduce myself.


My name is Alex Torra, I am currently serving as Pig Iron’s Associate Artistic Director. I thought I’d tell you a little about myself and about the cabaret-project I am putting together for May.

Though for some my face is a new one in the Pig Iron landscape, I actually first worked with Pig Iron years ago, all the way back in 2001 on the installation piece, Anodyne. Some of you may remember a smart-assy cater-waiter in the upstairs gallery space of the Anodyne world, who was kinda lazy and who enjoyed making off-color jokes about the Polish people…yeah, well, that was me.

The following summer I worked as Stage Manager on the premiere of Shut Eye, and then was lucky enough to be asked to travel with the show to Poland TWICE (the first time staying in Stalin’s guestroom at the Palace of Culture in Warsaw), and to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, AND to Ennis, Ireland, where we ate many breakfast meats and rode horses on the Irish coast.

Since those innocent and wide-eyed days of yore, I went to grad school and got my M.F.A. in Directing from the Brown University/Trinity Rep Consortium and then spent a year working in theaters in New York, Oregon, and Minneapolis. Throughout all this time, I stayed in contact with the Pig Iron crew, stayed updated with the company’s work, and always had the itch to come back one day.

Well, one day I stumbled upon the incredible Princess Grace Foundation who awards fellowship grants to young artists, which go towards funding these artists for a time period in which they get to work closely with a not-for-profit dance or theater company.

As Pig Iron and I discussed what my time with the company would be like, I told them that I would like to be both artistically and administratively involved in the company, and they came back with a proposal that, for one year, and to maximize my time at Pig Iron, I might serve as the company’s Associate Artistic Director.

How could I say no? And so, I said yes, the Princess Grace Foundation said yes, and - ta-da - here I am.

One of the aspects of my grant is that I get the opportunity to direct a small piece for Pig Iron and so we slotted a small cabaret for me to direct in May.

But what was it going to be?! I had some initial impulses – I knew I wanted to make a celebratory play, because it was a celebratory year for me. And I was kinda hooked on the idea of “princesses” in the wake of received an award from the Princess Grace Foundation.

It made me think of a Latin-American phenomenon that I had witnessed as a Cuban-American teenager in Miami – something termed a ‘quinceanera’. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction of Julia Alvarez’ book Once Upon a Quinceanera:

You are dressed in a long, pale pink gown, not sleek and diva-ish, but princessy, with a puffy skirt of tulle and lace that makes you look like you’re floating on air when you appear at the top of the stairs. Your court of fourteen couples has preceded you, and now they line up on the dance floor, forming a walkway through which you will pass to sit on a swing with garlanded ropes, cradling your last doll in your arms. Your mami will crown you with a tiara recessed in a cascade of curls the hairstylist spent most of the afternoon sculpting on your head. Then your papi will replace the flats you are wearing with a pair of silver heels and lead you out to the dance floor, where you will dance a waltz together.

No, you are not Miss America or a princess or an actress playing Cinderella in a Disney movie. In fact, you are not exceptionally beautiful or svelte and tall, model material. Your name is Maria or Xiomara or Maritza or Chantal, and your grandparents came from Mexico or Nicaragua or Cuba or the Dominican Republic. Your family is probably not rich; in fact, your mami and papi have been saving since you were a little girl or they’ve mortgaged the house or lined up forty godparents to help sponsor this celebration, as big as a wedding….

What is going on?

You are having your quinceanera, or fiesta de quince anos, or, simply, your quinces. And one day when you are as old as your grandmother and you want to say to some young person, hey, I once was young, too, the expression you will use is Yo tambien tuve mis quinces.

I, too, had my quinces.

A fascinating Latino tradition, a princess celebration, and a touch of amateurness and tackiness. This is the basis of my cabaret, whose title is:

Come to My Awesome Fiesta, It's Going to be Awesome, Okay?

Here are some YouTube videos that suggest what we're going for here:

And, as with all Pig Iron projects, one ingredient is not enough…I’ve got some more inspirations to give this quinces a “Pig Iron” twist. Stay tuned – I’ll be blogging sporadically as new party plans unfold!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Pictures from THE SWINING!

Many thanks to Andrew Loxley of FELT Photo, who snapped the following photos....








Monday, February 18, 2008

CHEKHOV in the Wilderness

The gents examine a specimen found recently in the desert.

Ahoy there. So sorry for our recent blog hiatus; it's been far too long. We'll be posting more regularly now - stay tuned for pictures from the sold-out The Swining at the Trocadero later this week!

In the meantime, give us a shout if you happen to be in the environs of Logan, UT in the upcoming week - we're presenting a new version of Chekhov Lizardbrain at Utah State University. Our sources on the ground say that the scenery is gorgeous, the Mexican food delightful, and the snow is powdery and abundant. (NOTE: picture above not geographically accurate or deemed to be representative of Utah in any significant way.) We got a recent mention in the Salt Lake Tribune, featuring an interview with the always-insightful Mr. Lizardbrain himself, James Sugg.

Monday, October 29, 2007

You Know, For the Kids!

After finishing up work on Isabella, we thought we'd do a quick survey to learn a little bit more about our audience, thus enabling us to better tend to your experimental theatre needs. We learned a lot of interesting stuff, not least of which was this:

3. In which one of these age ranges do you fall?
Under 18 0.9%
18-24 15.3%
25-35 52.5%
36-44 12.7%
45-59 10.2%
60+ 8.5%

Now, we won't lie - we make a lot of claims about ourselves having a youngish audience, but up until now, these have been primarily based on anecdotal evidence. As it turns out, over 2/3 of the folks who came to see Isabella were under 36 years old - a rarity in the ever-aging performing-arts world.

There's been a lot of talk recently about brain-drain and the role of culture in stopping it - to be less wonky about it, the question is: how do we keep the tens of thousands of college kids in the Philadelphia area from leaving after they graduate? Isn't culture - rock shows, contemporary art, and yes, cutting-edge, affordable theatre - one of the things that keeps the young folks around?

And - if that's true, which we think it is - can we humbly suggest that Pig Iron's model seems to be working? One of our favorite quotes from the open-response section of the survey was "I didn't like theater until I saw Pig Iron stuff"; we like the idea that experimental theater isn't just for the hard-core theater specialists - it works, too, for younger audience members who value the idea that theater doesn't have to rely on second-hand stagings and plotlines to tell its stories.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pig Iron in NYC and Philly (This Time With 75% More Elk!)

Now THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is a heckuva postcard.

What it says is that Pig Iron's about to uncork an astounding "mini-project," a collaboration with the ridiculously talented Cynthia Hopkins on the Public Theater-curated 365 Days/365 Plays, the NYC branch of the largest collaborative theatre project in the history of our planet. And then we're bringing it to Philly! And it's 100% free!!!!*

OK. Let's rewind a little. In 2002 and 2003, Suzan-Lori Parks ("Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright (Topdog/Underdog) " - our press release) wrote one play per day for an entire year. The writing became a daily meditation, a prayer, celebrating the rich and strange process of an artistic life. This past year, an international festival has sprung up devoted to staging the plays everywhere from Westport, CT, to Nashville to Austin to Boulder, CO to San Francisco. It's the low-fi theatrical version of "Hands Across America."

Companies are allowed an exceptional degree of latitude in interpreting their 7 short plays, and Pig Iron's in the midst of creatings a cabaret of rites and wrongs, a mash-up of movement and music featuring original music and songs by Cynthia Hopkins ("imagine Lotte Lenya's kid sister shacking up in a cheap Atlanta hotel with Tom Waits," says Time Out New York), the creator of Accidental Nostalgia and Must Don't Whip 'Um.

BROOKLYN: Brick Theatre, 575 Metropolitan Ave, PHILADELPHIA: The Latvian Society, 7th and Spring Garden.

Brooklyn: November 2, 7 p.m.
Brooklyn: November 3, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Philadelphia: November 4, 7 p.m.
Philadelphia: November 5, 7 p.m.

WHO: Sarah Sanford/James Sugg/Dito van Reigersberg/Alex Torra/Hinako Arao/Cynthia Hopkins

TICKETS: (215) 627 1883 or at

*Pig Iron's Director of Development will now try to dampen your excitement by reminding you that it is NOT free to put this production together, and that you should definitely consider the suggested donation of $10 - you can donate here if you're not the sort that carries cash around. (But still, FREE!)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pig Iron Bought Out By Philadelphia Media Holdings

Our fine young reporter and Pig Iron co-founder Dan Rothenberg has been selected (due, we're sure, to his fine work in this space) by the Inquirer to blog on the development process of ISABELLA and the overall madness of the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. You can read Dan's blog here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pig Iron Guide to the Fringe (abbreviated version)

Someone asked us recently to trace out the various contributions Pig Iron Company Members and collaborators are offering up during the Live Arts Festival. More than happy to oblige!

The List:

Isabella - well, duh.

Car - Kate Watson-Wallace's new work-in-progress; a dance piece set in a car, featuring Love Unpunished performer Jaamil Kosoko. Get cozy.

Explanatorium - New piece from Headlong Dance Theater, whom Pig Iron has a major crush on. Features David Brick (Love Unpunished choreographer), Nichole Canuso (Flop), and Geoff Sobelle (everything.)

Strawberry Farm - another work in progress, this time from Love Unpunished dancer Makoto Hirano.

Wandering Alice - So - this is a free show, a one-night-only work in progress with a capacity of 24, from Nichole Canuso Dance Company; Mr. Sugg does sound design; Ms. Suli Holum is the co-director. I'd get there early, were I you.

BATCH: An American Batchlor/ette Party Spectacle - Just the usual sexydruggyfunnyweird business from New Paradise Labs, back after being much-missed during last year's Festival.

Hearts of Man - Hell Meets Henry Halfway author Adriano Shaplin brings his company to Philadelphia. Hide the kids.

The Word - All-around super guy Brian Osborne performs in an electrifying one-man show about a evangelist in the '80s. Also directed by Suli Holum.

Martha Graham Cracker - Late Night Cabaret, Friday, August 31. We think it's a bad, bad idea to miss this. It's Martha in her native habitat.

There are a whole slew of other shows in the Fringe that we'd recommend without a second thought: Green Chair Dance; Grace: Kingdom; Sweetie Pie; Fatboy - the list goes on for miles. We know: it's a demanding couple of weeks. Even so, we think you'll have a blast - this year's lineup is one of the finest in recent memory.