Pig Iron Theatre to Team with Dr. Dog for Concert-Spectacle, Spring 2014
The OBIE Award-winning Pig Iron Theatre Company will collaborate on a new concert-spectacle with Dr. Dog - the Philadelphia-based indie-rock band whose last album (Be the Void) debuted on Billboard's top 50 - thanks to new funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The as-yet-untitled collaboration, scheduled for spring/summer 2014, will filter Dr. Dog's songs (including some from a new album due out in October) through Pig Iron's unique visual style and concept-driven staging.
Dr. Dog's involvement with Pig Iron dates back to its 2006 10th Anniversary Season, when band member Toby Leaman participated in The House Where Nobody Lives, an original cabaret based on the music of Tom Waits directed by Pig Iron Company Member James Sugg. Pig Iron's interest in incorporating rock music in their work dates back to Mission to Mercury, their 2000 clown-fantasy featuring re-arranged songs by Queen, and resurfaced in 2002's James Joyce is Dead and So Is Paris: The Lucia Joyce Cabaret, an original lo-fi rock musical born partly out of collaborations with local musicians Amy Pickard and Bradford Trojan, as well as the band Buried Beds.
"We've always been fascinated with the special performance state that happens when someone plays a musical instrument onstage," said Pig Iron Co-Artistic Director Dan Rothenberg. "It's part of what people come to see at a music event, and at a theater event it's either made invisible or kept in check by the limited vocabulary of 'musical theater.' We're pretty excited to work with a bona fide rock outfit and see what we can create that is part-theater, part-concert, part-something-we-don't-know."
Knight Foundation's funding is through the Knight Arts Challenge, which funds innovative ideas that engage and enrich Philadelphia through the arts.
"We're excited by the prospect of bringing two Philly favorites, Dr. Dog and Pig Iron, on stage to collaborate, and use a cross-discipline performance to engage more people in art," said Dennis Scholl, VP/Arts at Knight Foundation.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit KnightFoundation.org.
The Philadelphia-based Dr. Dog are part of a long tradition of D.I.Y. pop oddballs who blend unapologetic '60s pop worship with lo-fi recording techniques and an apparent disregard for current trends. The group began as a part-time offshoot of the more traditional indie rock act Raccoon. Over the course of several years, guitarist Toby Leaman and drummer Scott McMicken found enough free time to record the casual, sprawling 35-track set The Psychedelic Swamp in a basement rehearsal space, finally self-releasing it in 2001. As Raccoon ended, McMicken and Leaman transformed Dr. Dog into a proper band, with McMicken on guitar and Leaman on bass (the two shared songwriting and vocals), as well as guitarist Doug O'Donnell, keyboard player Zach Miller, and drummer Juston Stens. This lineup recorded 2003's more focused and poppy Toothbrush, which -- like The Psychedelic Swamp -- received a low-key, self-distributed release.
When My Morning Jacket's Jim James, a friend of Leaman and McMicken from their Raccoon days, hand-picked Dr. Dog to open for his band on an East Coast tour, the band's almost nonexistent national profile began to rise. With O'Donnell replaced by former Raccoon bassist Andrew Jones and several Philadelphia friends making guest appearances, 2005's Easy Beat was picked up for distribution by the indie label National Parking. Following its release, the band toured again with My Morning Jacket and M. Ward and performed several well-received sets during the 2005 South by Southwest festival in Austin. The EP Takers and Leavers was released in September 2006 in advance of We All Belong, which arrived in early 2007.
Throughout the rest of that year, Dr. Dog began posting previously unreleased tracks on their website; the songs were later released as Passed Away, Vol. 1 in March 2008. In the summer of that same year, the group released Fate. Fate featured some of the band's most polished production to date. It also became Dr. Dog's highest charting album, peaking at number 86 on the Billboard 200 and earning positive reviews from outlets like Rolling Stone and Entertainment Weekly. After touring in support of the album, the group signed with the ANTI- record label and released 2010's Shame, Shame, a modern album that featured more guitars than the band's earlier work. Golden Boots member Dimitri Manos, who had played with the band on Easy Beat, joined up with the band as a full member, and made his first appearance on a full-length album in 2012 with the release of Be the Void early that year
Founded in 1995 as an interdisciplinary ensemble, Pig Iron Theatre Company is dedicated to the creation of new and exuberant performance works that defy easy categorization.
In the past 16 years the company has created 24 original works and has toured to festivals and theatres in England, Scotland, Poland, Lithuania, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Romania and Germany. The body of Pig Iron's work is eclectic and daring. Individual works have been inspired by history and biography (Poet In New York, 1997 and Anodyne, 2001), rock music (Mission to Mercury, 2000 and James Joyce is Dead and so is Paris: The Lucia Joyce Cabaret, 2003), American kitsch culture (Cafeteria, 1997), serendipity (Dig or Fly, 1996 and The Snow Queen, 1999), and fallen heroes (The Odyssey, 1995 and The Tragedy of Joan of Arc, 1998). In 2001, Pig Iron collaborated with legendary theatre director Joseph Chaikin (1935-2003) to create an exploration of sleep, dreams and consciousness (Shut Eye). In 2005, Pig Iron won an OBIE Award for Hell Meets Henry Halfway, an adaptation of Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz's novel Possessed; in 2008, Pig Iron won a second OBIE for James Sugg's performance in Chekhov Lizardbrain. In 2006, Pig Iron was named Theatre Company of the Year in the Philadelphia Weekly.
Currently, Pig Iron is composed of 3 artistic directors and 4 company members, in addition to an administrative staff and board of directors. The company made Philadelphia its permanent home in 1997; though individual pieces are often developed in residency at other theatres or at universities, we premiere all our work in our hometown of Philadelphia.