Since its foundation in 1995, the self-described “dance-clown-theatre ensemble,” Pig Iron Theatre Company, has been challenging and delighting audiences with its avant-garde, envelope-shoving approach to the stage.
In the 16 years since it was established, the experimental theatre ensemble has created 24 original works and performed on stages around the globe from Brazil to Lithuania — and virtually everywhere in between. In October, the Pig Iron Theatre Company makes its first visit to Sarasota to participate in the fourth annual Ringling International Arts Festival with a production of its latest theatrical experiment, Zero Cost House.
The Pig Iron Theatre Company is widely regarded for its eccentric approach to theatre, and Zero Cost House is no exception. However, to compare and contrast the company’s most recent production to the two-dozen others which precede it would be but a comparison of apples to oranges. (“Bacon to sausages” may have been more fitting were I, perhaps, trying just a little too hard to spin an old cliché into a clever pun.)
From Flop (2002), a “three-woman clown extravaganza about the end of the universe” to Twelfth Night, or What You Will (2011), an appropriately drunken re-awakening of Shakespeare’s famous comedic play, Pig Iron productions are widely varied but often celebrated for their often-raucous and always-unique approach to theatre.
Zero Cost House, which premiered last week at the widely-celebrated Philadelphia Live Arts Fest, is the result of a collaborative effort between the Pig Iron Theatre Company and Japanese playwright, Toshiki Okada, to create a contemporary and very loose re-reading of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.
Described as “an elusive work of autobiography,” Zero Cost House consists of non-linear vignettes that follow the lives of a group of young people in Tokyo whose stories intersect, but do not necessarily reach a conclusion, forcing audiences to disregard the notion that narratives simply end when the final curtain drops — a challenge that, without context, may elicit intrigue and frustration in equal measure.
“Toshiki Okada seems to write plays about nothing, about really minute, very interior and slight things, but there’s something very substantial moving underneath the surface that’s rarely pointed to in the text,” Zero Cost House director, Dan Rothenberg, said in a recent interview with Culturebot.
Written by Okada in the aftermath of the tsunami that devastated Japan in 2011, but set around the time of the United States invasion of Iraq earlier in the decade, Zero Cost House explores the seemingly-unremarkable aspects of our daily lives — the negative space that exists between the threads that connect us to one another and the greater world that surrounds us.
“Sometimes Pig Iron plays with subtle acting states, looking for a way to sensitize audiences to moments of life which are almost invisible. That’s what Toshiki Okada does, he makes the invisible visible. And that’s why we’re drawn to him,” Rothenberg said.
Zero Cost House is a departure from all things conventional; an exploration of frontiers in theatre that have rarely, if ever, been touched. This year’s RIAF presents the opportunity to be amongst the first to experience the play on four separate occasions, with tickets starting at just $35.
To reserve your tickets, visit the online box office or call (941) 360-7399 or (800) 660-4278.