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Irondale Ensemble Project Celebrates 40 Years Of Theater Making With New Devised Immersive Work Of Great American Playwrights Of The 20th Century

A look at the emergence of American theatre during a time of political, economic, and social shifts.

By: Mar. 23, 2023
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Irondale Ensemble Project Celebrates 40 Years Of Theater Making With New Devised Immersive Work Of Great American Playwrights Of The 20th Century  Image

Irondale, now celebrating forty years of artistically ambitious, and cutting-edge theatre, presents the world premiere of an original devised work, American Century: Part 1, April 21-May 21, 2023.

In this non-linear musical, original songs, music, and a variety of acting styles examine art and culture during the emergence of the United States as a world power; straddling the events and impacts of the Great Depression, World War II and its social and political outcomes, The Civil Rights Movement, McCarthyism, and the progression of liberalism during the 20th century. Using seven key great American plays as source material, the evening-length immersive work, performed throughout the company's entire duplex space, examines how both world events changed theater, but how theater changed the ways the world was experienced and viewed by its audiences.

"The direct experience of seeing how all that which has come before us has made an indelible imprint on us," explains Jim Niesen, Irondale's Artistic Director. Amidst the pervasive denigration of American History over the last decade, the evening offers a look at the great works of the past: The Verge by Susan Glaspell (1921), The Front Page by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur (1928), Machinal by Sophie Treadwell (1928), A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (1947), The Crucible by Arthur Miller (1953), Long Day's Journey into Night by Eugene O'Neill (1956), and A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959). The journey through these works and their central lessons amplify the growth of American theater and the evolution of American social and political culture, from vaudeville to the dressed-up melodramas, to an era that is seen as one of the greatest in the three thousand years of western theater making. The Irondale ensemble composes its own origin story of how this period of time has influenced how we see the world today and experience the theatre of today, without apology or retreat.

"Our ahistorical age is fraught with ignorance of how we became who we are today, both as artists, but as citizens too. In our fortieth year, we want to have these important conversations, while we look at our own lineage as an ensemble and our place in the world," Niesen continues. "We erase the past at our own peril. A visceral appreciation of what has come before helps us to better understand our world and know how it got here."

"Much of our work over our forty years of theater making has focused on the great European playwrights like Shakespeare and Brecht, but during this fortieth anniversary season we are shifting our focus to dive into our own county's seminal voices from the inside out, taking into consideration major events, politics, music, art, and style of the time," adds Terry Griess Executive Director.

Previews for American Century: Part 1 will take place April 20-23 and April 27. The opening night performance is April 28, with performances running each Thursday-Sunday through May 21.

All showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. at The Space at Irondale, located at 85 South Oxford Street in Brooklyn, New York.

An opening night 40th Anniversary toast will take place for all ticket holders on April 28.

The theater is accessible by Subway: C to Lafayette; B, D, M, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4, or 5 to Atlantic Avenue/Pacific Street; and G to Fulton Street.

For the duration of the company's 40th Anniversary season, tickets to all performances will be free. To make a reservation, visit


American Century: Part 1 | World Premiere

Directed by Jim Niesen

Music by Sam Day Harmet, Nolan Kennedy, and the Irondale Ensemble

Choreography by Kaya Blumenthal-Rothchild

Costumes by Hilarie Blumenthal

Sets by Kennon Rothchild

Lighting by Emilio Maxwell Cerci

Running time: 100 minutes

A theatrical and musical journey through the 20th Century and its great playwrights whose work was a mirror of the emergence of American culture and its political, economic, and social shifts.

Irondale is a theater located in the heart of the Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District. It is a theatre ensemble, a performance think-tank and a laboratory for collaborative theatre- making. Irondale's unique and transformational theatre space has gained much attention as a place for both established and emerging artists to premiere major projects and showcase developing work. The Irondale Ensemble Project was founded in 1983 by Jim Niesen, Terry Greiss, and Barbara Mackenzie-Wood and is one of the longest established permanent ensemble theaters in the country. The ensemble has created over 60 Off-Broadway productions ranging from intimate chamber productions of Shakespeare to original, epic, company-devised works. Irondale's learning programs for students and community provide high quality, cutting-edge workshops and residencies designed to encourage and develop the artist in each individual and to make the skills derived from participating in making theatre a valuable contribution to successful, daily living.


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