Pig Iron Theatre Company’s A Period of Animate Existence

On September 14th, the Pig Iron Theatre Company will host a semi-staged concert of their newest original work, A Period of Animate Existence. The performance will begin at 7pm in The Lang Performing Arts Center. It is free and open to the public.

Pig Iron Theatre Company describe themselves as an “interdisciplinary ensemble” that is “dedicated to the creation of new and exuberant performance works that defy easy categorization.” Their pieces combine the versatility and originality of performance art with more traditional elements of theater, such as music and dance. They have created more than 30 original works that tackle a range of topics, from sleep, dreams, and consciousness (Shut Eye), to a child’s struggle to accept contingency and fantasy after the Fukushima nuclear disaster (Zero Cost House). While their works do span many different subjects, they all attempt to answer many of life’s difficult questions. A Period of Animate Existence is no exception.

Their newest work offers a meditative examination of life during the Sixth Extinction, a period that will see the death of 20-50% of all life on earth. The company grapples with what lies ahead after such an era, exploring questions of existence and the effects of time. While this may sound abstract, Swarthmore Music Professor Barbara Milewski contends that the work is a “direct attempt to engage audiences with fundamental questions about what it means to be human and what our place is on this planet.” The performance puts children, elders, and machines in dialogue with one another to create what Professor Milewski calls a “multi-generational” exchange, “trying, if you will, to engage conversations among the generations to see how we might all be viewing the same urgent issue of our time.”

Founder/Co-Artistic Director Dan Rothenberg ‘95 collaborated with contemporary composer Troy Herion and set designer/recent MacArthur “Genius” Award winner Mimi Lien to create this new piece. The addition of Herion to the creative team is sure to make A Period of Animate Existenceone of Pig Iron’s most musically inventive works to date. Herion composes in an immense range of musical styles, from classical orchestral compositions to electronic scores that stretch the boundaries of contemporary music. Much of his work focuses on “visual music,” a concept that will merge organically with Pig Iron’s own unique approach to theater. Mr. Herion will be giving a master class on “Visual-Music” at Swarthmore on Tuesday, September 12th, from 4-6pm in the Lang Concert Hall.

Given their dynamism and creativity as an ensemble, the Pig Iron Theatre Company seems uniquely situated to take on these questions. Being an interdisciplinary group gives them the ability to adapt in interesting ways to the work they take on. A Period of Animate Existence is sure to employ new and inventive methods in answering some of the toughest questions that face us today.

Gabriel Hearn-Desautels ’20