Philadelphia’s Pig Iron Theatre and Swarthmore College’s Cooper Series present Love Unpunished, a hypnotic dance-theater piece about the moments just before the collapse of the World Trade Center, Saturday, Sept. 18 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 19 at 2 p.m. in the Pearson-Hall Theatre of the Lang Performing Arts Center (LPAC).
Love Unpunished, directed by Swarthmore Class of 1995 alum and Pig Iron co-Artistic Director Dan Rothenberg and Bessie award-winning choreographer and Headlong Dance Theater co-Artistic Director David Brick, portrays the moments of fear, confusion, and human contact in the 20 feet of escape stairs on 9/11. The mostly wordless piece imagines the administrators, traders, custodians, secretaries, bike messengers, and others descending the stairs wondering, “Is this a drill or an emergency?” MacArthur fellow and Tony winner Mimi Lien’s iconic scene design is combined with Brick’s one-of-a-kind movement style in an arresting, fragile, and tender way to depict bodies moving into a ghost world. The lighting design is by the Tony Award-winning Tyler Micoleau.
The work originally premiered in 2006, but recognizing the 20th anniversary of 9/11, witnessing the end of the Afghanistan war, and beginning the third semester in the COVID-19 pandemic, Love Unpunished’s message about the fragility of the human condition amid enormous forces endures and takes on a new resonance.
“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,” says 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.”
Professor of Theater Allen Kuharski will moderate an hourlong panel discussion with the artists following the Sept. 19 performance at 3:30 p.m. at the LPAC Cinema. In addition, the College will host dance workshops Sept. 13–15 and theater workshops Sept. 21–23 at the LPAC’s Boyer Dance Studio and Frear Ensemble Theater, respectively.
Love Unpunished has a run time of one hour. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, these events are not open to the public from off campus.
The remount of Love Unpunished marks the 25th anniversary of both the Pig Iron Theatre and the Philadelphia FringeArts Festival; the show ran as part of the 2021 fest Sept. 3–11 at the Prince Theatre. Pig Iron has been a headliner at the festival since its founding in 1997.
Founded by graduates of the Department of Theater at Swarthmore College, Pig Iron Theatre has created a half-dozen works with the support of residencies through the Swarthmore Project in Theater, at times with major funding from the William J. Cooper Foundation on campus. These residencies supported the creation of historic Pig Iron productions such as Cafeteria (1997); Shut Eye (2001), Pig Iron’s collaboration with director Joseph Chaikin; and the OBIE Award-winning Hell Meets Henry Halfway (2005). As with Love Unpunished, these productions were also created and presented in partnership with the Philadelphia FringeArts Festival.
The William J. Cooper Foundation provides a varied program of lectures, performances, and exhibitions that enrich the academic work of Swarthmore College. The Foundation was established by William J. Cooper to bring to campus leaders in a broad range of fields and disciplines, including education, politics, the arts and sciences, and business, for the benefit of faculty, students, staff, and the College community.
Praise for Love Unpunished
“Expect the fascinating, provocative images that make Pig Iron’s work so seductive. … Love Unpunished isn’t quite dance or play — but, as always with Pig Iron, promises to be much more than either.” — Philadelphia City Paper
“In depicting a world knocked off its axis, Pig Iron discovers a tranquil, ethereal plane within the chaos – a place existing somewhere between life and death, remembrance and renewal.” — Philadelphia Weekly