By David Walters
In Greenpoint Brooklyn, there is a theater company with a gargantuan mission statement that has been in existence and following that statement for 40 years. Irondale calls itself a research theater existing, “at the intersection of art, education, community engagement, and social justice.” They call themselves Citizen Artists as their work is tied to the reasons that theater is necessary for a community and necessary for life, hinging on the past and linking it to the relevancy of today. And as such they are charging absolutely nothing to view all of their work this year. Yes, free. Please click on the link above to see the many local community and international projects they are in line with.
Working out of their permanent home, a teched-out enormous 6,000 square-foot rehabbed nineteenth-century Sunday school tacked onto the back of a church that they’ve had since 2008, Irondale has set their current sites on American plays (after spending six years exploring Shakespeare and four years delving into Brecht) with a production entitled American Century part 1. The idea is to pull key plays from the American canon of theater, delve into them as key indicators of theater development at their specific moment in time, and relate it to the full progression of American theater and where we are today. Another gargantuan project that has been in development and workshopping for some time.
“Rubbing together words and ideas,” from each of these plays and accompanied by two fabulously sublime multi-instrumentalists, Sam Day Harmet and Erica Mancini, the company of six actors bounces through scenes, monologues, both on and off book, rehearsal processes, full-on performances, occasionally breaking into original song, and interacting with the audience in a joyful and meaningful way through the seven plays. They touch on the history of what was happening in the world and the country when the play came out to give some context. There is no question that the actors are happy to be there, love what they’re doing, and want to share their work with us, and that feeling carries over settling comfortably on the audience. It’s a smorgasbord of theatrical delights, especially for those that know and love theater.
Because they have done so much research and know so much about each play, where and why it came into being, and the significance of its place in theatrical history, I did feel I was coming in mid-semester and, though I understood what the topic was, I felt I was missing a foundation to be able to understand the full picture.
I do commend Irondale on their 40 years and all of the amazing work that they have and are currently doing.
American Century Part 1, created by Irondale Ensemble, and directed by Jim Niesen.
Original Music by Sam Day Harmet and Nolan Kennedy with original lyrics by Irondale Ensemble, Choreographer Kaya Blumenthal-Rothchild, Lighting Design by Emillo Maxwell Cerci, Costume Design by Hilarie Blumenthal.
About 90 minutes with no intermission. Tickets can be procured here, or just show up as it’s free
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.