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Cooper Event: TWELFTH NIGHT/Pig Iron Theatre Co.

"Stupendous... the whole production is dazzling.  Pig Iron goes for slapdash--expertly planned and executed slapdash--and hits the mark."  Neil Genzlinger, THE NEW YORK TIMES

March 25, 2014 - The Swarthmore College Department of Theater, Department of English Literature, Department of Music and Dance, and the William J. Cooper Foundation will present Pig Iron Theatre Company's Twelfth Night, or What You Will on March 1st at 7PM and March 2nd at 2PM and 7PM in the LPAC Pearson-Hall Theatre. Start with a shipwreck, take one part mistaken identity, add in a comedic love triangle and mix with excessive drinking, melodramatic breakdowns and a live, Balkan-inspired musical score, and you've got a raucous take on one of Shakespeare's most wicked comedies. Alternately absurd and heartfelt, Twelfth Night, or What You Will is replete with practical jokes, gender confusion, and thwarted love. This event is free and open to the public without reservation, but seating will be limited.

Director Dan Rothenberg '95 says that, "After 15 years of making original performance experiments, the next hurdle was to see if [Pig Iron] could apply our physical ensemble approach to a classic script and let everything we care about live within a very set form. Experimental theater is about opening up new ways of seeing; could we sneak this into a Shakespeare play without deconstructing the thing? All our experiments with clown theater, with cabaret, and with dance theater inform the way people speak and move in this production, resulting in a rough, wholly American Twelfth Night."

With their signature verve, Pig Iron turns Shakespeare's text into a clear, funny, and vibrant performance in this award-winning and music-soaked crowd-pleaser. There are dueling musicians, depressive noblemen, idiots and veteran jesters, religious zealots, and erotic misunderstandings. With its highly physical performance style, Pig Iron brings a news spark to one of Shakespeare's most celebrated plays.

Pig Iron's production features company regulars James Sugg (OBIE Award winner for Chekhov Lizardbrain), Dito van Reigersberg '94,  and Alex Torra, Birgit Huppuch (Pig Iron's Isabella, OBIE Award winner for Telephone) as Olivia, and Kirsten Sieh (GATZ) as Viola. Barrymore Award-winning New Zealand composer Rosie Langabeer has provided a musical score performed live by members of the West Philadelphia Orchestra. Twelfth Night premiered at the 2011 Philadelphia LiveArts Festival,  was recently revived for Philadelphia's 2013 FringeArts Festival, and recently experienced outstanding success at the Abron Arts Center in New York.

Pig Iron Theatre Company was founded in 1995 by Swarthmore alumni and has grown from a small, fringe performance troupe into one of the best-known ensembles of its kind in America. The New York Times hailed the company as "one of the few groups successfully taking theatre in new directions." The group has created many works on campus over the years with support from the Swarthmore Project in Theater and earlier grants from the William J. Cooper Foundation.  Members of Pig Iron regularly teach and work as guest artists in the Department of Theater, and members of the Department's faculty have also worked as collaborators on several Pig Iron productions.  The production marks the twentieth anniversary of the graduation from Swarthmore of founding members of Dito van Reigersberg '94 and Quinn Bauriedel '94.

Pig Iron has also taught its unique approaches to ensemble-created physical theater at theaters and universities in Scotland, Ireland, Turkey, Argentina, Peru, and across the USA at institutions such as Yale University, Brown, Harvard, Utah State Logan, Wesleyan, Bryn Mawr, University of the Arts, and many others.  In 2011 Pig Iron launched a 2-year graduate program in ensemble theater based in their hometown of Philadelphia. 


The creation of Pig Iron's staging of Twelfth Night has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the William Penn Foundation. Funding for the 2013 presentation of Twelfth Night has been provided in part by the Strike While the Iron's Hot Initiative, a matching gifts campaign made possible by the Wyncote Foundation and dedicated to bringing more of Pig Iron's work to Philadelphia audiences in 2013-2015. Additional funding has been provided by Aurora's Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation.