If a person wants to see a theater production in the Philadelphia area, they can turn to a place that they may not have thought of to begin with, the Iron Age Theatre. The Iron Age Theatre, located in Norristown, offers productions all year round. Its non-traditional performances are what separate it from other local venues.
Co-directors and co-founders, John Doyle and Randy Wise, have been working together for over 15 years since creating Iron Age in 1993. Doyle, a 1985 graduate from Cabrini College, met Wise while attending graduate school at Villanova University. While at Cabrini, Doyle received his degree in English, communication and history.
“My theater partner, Randy Wise, and I met in graduate school at Villanova. Throughout those two years we worked together on several projects and found an artistic synchronicity,” Doyle said.
The types of plays that Doyle and Wise produce are typically untraditional. “We use improvisation, often non-traditionally, incorporating a measure of reality into the improvisation, to help develop the action and character of the play,” Doyle said. Most of the productions at the Iron Age Theatre challenge the audience and make them use their minds to think of the reality of the situations and the challenges that arise in the storylines.
Not only does Doyle and Wise direct these plays together, but they also produce them, create all of the set designs and work on the lighting. “We have our hands in every facet of the production,” Doyle said. “We direct together, I set and design lights and sound, Randy builds and designs set and costumes. I design the graphics and then Randy and I develop the dramaturgy together and Randy does the PR. We control the company’s work in its entirety and so Iron Age is essentially an artistic extension of Randy and I.”
“John and I have a shared vision, a shared commitment to the work and have a shared love of art and exploration, so it is a very rewarding collaboration,” Wise said.
Besides Doyle and Wise, there are about four other members of the Iron Age Theatre who are intricately involved with helping to put the productions together, and there is also a board of directors.
As far as the actors, the Iron Age Theatre has a “core membership” to their productions. They have some members who regularly appear in almost every production while also regularly adding new members to each new production.
Cabrini College graduates Lauren Joseph and Janene Gibbons are involved with the Iron Age Theatre. Joseph has been working with every show for about the past 22 productions and Gibbons has just recently started to get involved with the Iron Age Theatre.
“They [the people involved with Iron Age Theatre] are always asking how you are and genuinely care about your well being,” Gibbons, class of 2009, said. “I felt like I belonged there right away.”
The next show that the Iron Age Theatre is set to produce is “The Rear Column.” This particular play deals with the soldiers that Henry Gordon Stanley left behind in Africa during the 1800s. This plays shows how human beings react when having to survive on their own outside of civilization.
“It’s like ‘Survivor’ on stage,” Doyle said. “They make alliances and allegiances with one another and they struggle to survive while waiting for almost one year.”
Shows such as these are what sets the Iron Age Theatre apart from others. Their productions show the vulnerability of humans and they also deeply encourage the audience to think of how they would react in certain situations.
Despite all of the greatness that comes with the Iron Age Theatre, there are some downfalls. “The most frustrating part of theater is the lack of money,” Wise said. “The arts are chronically underfunded, and legitimate drama that really challenges people and makes them think never seems to have the money and resources it needs.”
Although the Iron Age Theatre may lack in funding, that does not stop them from performing the original productions that they always have and allowing everyone involved to experience their own personal gratification from theater.
“One of the most rewarding things to me about theater and art in general is the ability to explore and experience things you would not likely be able to in real life,” Wise said.
For more information on the Iron Age Theatre you can visit their Web site at www.ironagetheatre.com. If you would like to become involved with the Iron Age Theatre and their productions, you can contact John Doyle at email@example.com.