Steel Hammer, Music by Julia Wolfe | Directed by Anne Bogart; Performed by SITI Company & the Bang on a Can All-Stars; Emily Eagen, Katie Geissinger & Molly Quinn, singers; Original text by Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux & Regina Taylor

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Steel Hammer

Music by Julia Wolfe | Directed by Anne Bogart
Performed by SITI Company & the Bang on a Can All-Stars
Emily Eagen, Katie Geissinger & Molly Quinn, singers
Original text by Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux & Regina Taylor

September 26, 2015
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

October 23-24, 2015
Royce Hall, UCLA, Los Angeles

November 17, 2015
Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, Moss Arts Center, Blacksburg

November 20-21, 2015
OZ Arts, Nashville

December 2-6, 2015
Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York

PLUS: Julia Wolfe’s Pulitzer-Prize winning Anthracite Fields to be released by Cantaloupe Music on September 25, 2015. Listen to the album here (Not for publication. Press-only password: Anthra2015)

New York, NY – 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Wolfe’s profound art ballad Steel Hammer was not conceived as a stage show, but director Anne Bogart was so inspired by the musical retelling of the John Henry legend that she wanted to give it this dramatic reincarnation with the six-member SITI Company. Steel Hammer will be performed this fall by SITI Company, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and singers Emily Eagen, Katie Geissinger, and Molly Quinn at the Krannert Center (September 26), UCLA (October 23-24), Virginia Tech (November 17), OZ Arts Nashville (November 20-21), and BAM (December 2-6).

Wolfe’s text in Steel Hammer is culled from the many iterations of the century-old John Henry ballad and her music incorporates elements of minimalism, Appalachian folk music, and rock. Deconstructing and resetting more than 200 versions of the famous ballad, Steel Hammer examines not only the subject of human vs. machine, but delves into the richly populated mythos of American folklore and roots music.

Intersecting the music in this production is text commissioned from four remarkable American playwrights – Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux and Regina Taylor – based on heresay, recollection, and tall tales. Performers in Steel Hammer take on wooden bones, mountain dulcimer, step dancing, and more as they explore the human impulse to tell stories and this quintessential tale of an American folk hero who worked on the railroad.

“Steel Hammer was really inspired by my love for the legends and music of Appalachia,” Wolfe explains. “It’s a return to my musical roots in folk music, and when I wrote the piece, I looked to the breadth of musicianship in the Bang on a Can All-Stars. I was also moved by the myriad of songsters, some known, some not-so-known, who filled my ears with their own personal versions of the John Henry ballad.”

Steel Hammer, a Carnegie Hall and Maria and Robert A. Skirnick commission, was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music, and the studio recording, featuring the Bang on a Can All-Stars and Trio Mediaeval, was released on Cantaloupe Music in 2014. Listen to the album here (Not for publication. Press-only password: Steel2001).

Julia Wolfe, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music, draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them. Wolfe’s music is distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power that pushes performers to extremes and demands attention from the audience. Her music has been heard in venues worldwide including BAM, the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, Théâtre de la Ville, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall, and has been recorded on Cantaloupe, Teldec, Point/Universal, Sony Classical, and Argo/Decca.

Formed in 1992, New York’s electric chamber ensemble, Bang on a Can All-Stars, is recognized worldwide for its ultra-dynamic live performances and recordings of today’s most innovative music. Freely crossing the boundaries between classical, jazz, rock, world, and experimental music, this six-member amplified ensemble has consistently forged a distinct category-defying identity, taking music into uncharted territories.

SITI Company is an ensemble theater company based in New York that tours extensively throughout the United States and internationally. SITI is dedicated to the creation of new work, the training of theater artists, and to international collaboration. Founded in 1992 by Anne Bogart, Tadashi Suzuki and a group of like-minded artists, SITI seeks to redefine and revitalize contemporary theater in the United States through an emphasis on international cultural exchange and collaboration. Among the countless accolades SITI as a whole, as well as its members individually, have garnered are: seven OBIE awards; two Guggenheim Fellowships, Doris Duke Artist Award, USA Artists Rockefeller Fellowship; American Theatre Wing’s Henry Hewes design award, Best Foreign Production at the Dublin Festival, and several Drama Desk Award nominations.

Anne Bogart is the artistic director of SITI Company, which she founded with Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki in 1992. She is a professor at Columbia University where she runs the Graduate Directing Program. She and SITI have created about two dozens works including A Rite (Next Wave 2013), Trojan Women (After Euripides)(Next Wave 2012), Hotel Cassiopeia (Next Wave 2007), bobrauschenbergamerica (Next Wave 2003), War of the Worlds–the Radio Play(Next Wave 2000). She is the author of five books: A Director PreparesThe Viewpoints BookAnd Then, You ActConversations with Anne; and What’s the Story.

Steel Hammer the score was commissioned by Bang on a Can with generous support from Maria and Robert A. Skirnick and Carnegie Hall. The play Steel Hammer premiered at Actors Theatre of Louisville in the 2014 Humana Festival of New American Plays with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The dramatized stage production of Steel Hammer featuring SITI Company and Bang on a Can All Stars will be developed and premiered at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was commissioned by the Krannert Center and by BAM for the 2015 Next Wave Festival.

Scenic & costume design by James Schuette
Lighting by Brian Scott
Sound design by Andrew Cotton and Christian Frederickson
Choreography by Barney O’Hanlon

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