“Let us first be as simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our brows, and take up a little life into our pores”
Henry David Thoreau, Walden

When Henry David Thoreau published “Walden” (1854), the technology that would eventually enable the creation of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant (1971) was not even in its infancy. Written in the first half of the nineteenth century, Thoreau’s essays devoted to his experience of opting out of headlong modernity soon became staple texts for critics of the Western social and economic system. Since the 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima Thoreau’s thought has acquired novel meanings.

A dream of radical change, thinks Toshiki Okada, reading Walden from his home in Tokyo. A beautiful book, but only a dream. But then 3/11 happens – those numbers will, for a generation of Japanese people, stand in for the earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear disaster at Fukushima. In Tokyo, “unconfirmed” urban radiation levels are reported and milk is removed from supermarket shelves. In this atmosphere of deadly weirdness an architect who studies the homes of the homeless declares himself Prime Minister of Japan from his artist’s refuge in Kumamoto, far outside the city in Western Japan.

Eminent Japanese playwright and theatre director Toshiki Okada wrote his own version of Thoreau’s Walden, drawing on his experience in the wake of the tsunami that devastated his home country in the March of 2011. His update on the nineteenth-century classic makes a fascinating present-day political manifesto that centres on a post-apocalyptic world where civilization is no more.

The creation of Zero Cost House was funded in part by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage; by the MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation; by the Japan Foundation through the Performing Arts JAPAN Program; by the Independence Foundation New Works Initiative; by the Asian Cultural Council; by the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art; by the Saison Foundation; and by the William Penn Foundation. Zero Cost House was developed with support from PlayMakers Repertory Company, Joseph Haj, producing artistic director.

Place and date of the premiere: Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, September 2012

About Pig Iron:

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.

Over the course of its nearly two-decade lifespan, Pig Iron has created over two dozen 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 and Welcome to Yuba City, 2009), serendipity (Dig or Fly, 1996 and The Snow Queen, 1999), and scientific research (Pay Up, 2005/2013 and Chekhov Lizardbrain, 2007). 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.  Pig Iron’s staging of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was nominated for ten Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, winning four.

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 during residency at other theatres or at universities, we premiere all our work in our hometown of Philadelphia.