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Students get to pick brains of visiting theater group

By Aleta Mayne on November 20, 2009
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Pig Iron Theatre Co. at Colgate Complex in their exploration of neuroscience and their varied influences, yet simplistic in their acting method that is rooted in raw emotion, the Pig Iron Theatre Company has brought its unique style to Colgate.

After a week of interacting with theater students in workshops, classes, and a roundtable discussion, Pig Iron’s visit will culminate in a performance of its latest production, Chekhov Lizardbrain, this weekend at Brehmer Theater.

Loosely based on playwright Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters, the plot of Chekhov Lizardbrain is about three brothers who must decide what to do with the family home after their parents have died.

The “reptilian” aspect of the play was influenced by neuroscientist Paul MacLean’s theory of a triune brain, which poses that we have three brains in one and that the first layer — the lizard brain — is most closely related to physical survival.

Quinn Bauriedel, co-creator and cast member of Pig Iron Theatre Co., works with students during a workshop. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

 

Students in Thursday night’s workshop delved into the lizard brain, as well as the dog brain and human brain, when they participated in exercises led by co-creator and cast member Quinn Bauriedel.

“It was fascinating to explore these different facets of the mind, how breathing and movement are affected, and how the habits of each can be observed in daily life’s routines,” said Carolina van der Mensbrugghe ’10.

Ming Peiffer ’10, who also participated in the workshop, appreciated the company’s approach of taking basic human feelings to new levels. “Pig Iron focuses on the beauty of that which is ordinary, and through this dissection, the ordinary gains the ability to shift into the extraordinary.”

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Chekhov Lizardbrain will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Brehmer Theater. Admission is free and the public is welcome.

• The appearance by Pig Iron Theatre Co. is sponsored by the Theater Program and the Institute for the Creative and Performing Arts and its Cathy MacNeil Hollinger ’83 and Mark Hollinger ’81 Artist-in-Residence in Theatre program. It also was partially supported by a grant from Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour.

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The story of Pig Iron’s foundation and its continued success 14 years later served as a source of inspiration for the students.

“We were, like you, students at a liberal arts college [Swarthmore], making projects together and seeing what happened when we collided different styles — like making a piece that merged theater with clown dance,” Bauriedel told students.

Since then, the company has created and performed more than 25 original productions.

“Pig Iron provided a fresh perspective on how the liberal arts emphasis on multidisciplinary education of the sciences, humanities, and social sciences can combine to create a new outlook on performance,” said van der Mensbrugghe, a dual theater and international relations major.

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