When asked if they are a theatre company or a folk band, PigPen Theatre Co is unsure how to answer. Although they technically started as a theatre troupe before releasing a full-length folk album Bremen, it’s best to call this seven-piece outfit as a group of fantastic storytellers. And according to a guest blog post they wrote for American Songwriter last week after the start of their first full-length production The Old Man and The Old Moon, the men of PigPen describe great storytellers as, “musicians, actors, directors, animators, bands, designers, authors, composers, singers, or illustrators [who]…use every tool at their disposal – music, imagery, poetry – to take you on a journey. And on our very best day, we like to think that’s what we do.”
Troupe members conceptualized Pig Pen Theatre Co. during their freshmen year at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Drama. After winning the top award at the NYC International Fringe Festival for two consecutive years (the only company in the festival’s history to do so) with their productions of The Nightmare Story and The Mountain Song, PigPen soon produced their album through Kickstarter. (Post coming soon about publicly-funded arts projects, I promise!)
The Old Man and The Old Moon, which opened on October 7, 2012, is currently playing through January 6, 2013 at The Gym at Judson in Greenwich Village. It features shadow puppetry, live action, artistic lighting, and, of course, sweet folk music. After my best friend Tori saw it this week and gave a raving review, we immediately made plans to see it around Christmastime. Thanks to her suggestion, I’ve since become certifiably obsessed with their album.
That being said, I categorize PigPen as…well…perfect. Rather than try to pigeonhole (or cage them up, amiright? Couldn’t help a pen-related pun…) into either a theatre or music category, what’s important and unique is the experience they’ve created. PigPen uses their multifaceted talents across many mediums: music, theatre, film, social outreach, book-writing, etc. Not to mention, they do a killer cover of Adele’s “Someone Like You.” Although the concept is complicated to explain, the NY theatre community has still fallen for PigPen. Do you know of any other music group/theatre troup stagings in New York other than Once? The group adds a whole new dimension to folk music, and connects to the musical and theatrical roots of the Big Apple on a deep, creative level.