Pig Iron Theatre raises curtain on new school

One of Philadelphia’s most successful experimental theater companies has just become an institution. On Monday, Pig Iron Theatre will open the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training.

Pig Iron has sold out shows for 16 years in Philadelphia, won major theater awards in New York, and was even named as a problematic arts group on a congressional blacklist.

It has methodically rethought every aspect of the theatrical experience–from on-stage movement and language, to seating and marketing. The new school instructors will teach their tricks and the nuances of creating ensemble theater from scratch.

“We’re always evolving and changing. We’re always bringing new people into the mix. If that ever starts to get stale–that’s dangerous,” said co-founder Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel. “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.”

The School for Advanced Performance Training requires a commitment of 20 hours a week for two years. Students will learn Pig Iron’s adopted theories of “total theater,” wherein everyone–from the producer to the actor to the prop designer–is on equal creative footing.

It will also tether the widely touring theater company closer to home.

“Philadelphia has been a great home base, but we’ve treated it like a home base,” said Bauriedel. “We work infrequently–maybe three to six weeks of the year. But the school will be a regular presence. We’ll have more contact with the neighborhood, with Philadelphia, and have a place to rehearse and teach.”

Pig Iron is the anchor tenant of the new art space in Kensington called Old School Studios, at Second and Master streets, a 19th-century parochial schoolhouse recently renovated into artists’ studios. It’s the little sister to the Crane Arts Building, a block away on North American Street.

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