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Music | Theater | Folklore

Steel Hammer

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NY Premiere
Dec 2—Dec 6, 2015
Performance dates & times
RUN TIME: 1hr 55min
Gallery seating is only accessible by 70 stairs. 
December 2015
29 30 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 1 2
Wednesday December 02, 2015
Performances no longer available.
Part of

Julia Wolfe and SITI Company
Bang on a Can All-Stars
Directed by Anne Bogart

“…spectacularly inventive and original music theater…”
—Los Angeles Times

Who was John Henry? According to Johnny Cash, Bill Monroe, Pete Seeger, and Bruce Springsteen, he was a steel-driving railroad man who outperformed a steam drill before dying with his hammer in hand. But versions of the indelible American myth vary.

In this staged incarnation of her work Steel Hammer, 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe teams with director Anne Bogart and SITI Company to distill the discrepancies of over 200 variants of the classic ballad and legend into a theatrical post-minimalist mountain-music hybrid. Playwrights Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux, and Regina Taylor provide additional texts as three singers and the Bang on a Can All-Stars—fortified with banjo, bones, mountain dulcimer, and other Appalachian instruments—give the folk hero a newfangled song for a new century.


Original text by Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux, and Regina Taylor
Scenic & Costume Design by James Schuette
Lighting by Brian Scott
Sound design by Andrew Cotton and Christian Frederickson
Choreography by Barney O’Hanlon

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 with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The dramatized stage production of Steel Hammer was commissioned by the Krannert Center and by BAM for the 2015 Next Wave Festival.

In memory of Robert W. Wilson, with gratitude for his visionary and generous support of BAM.

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Related Content
The States [Excerpt] - Steel Hammer
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Steel Hammer
Photo: Barney O’Hanlon, Gian-Murray Gianino, Eric Berryman, Akiko Aizawa, Stephen Duff Webber, Patrice Johnson Chevannes, by Michael Brosilow
Photo: Eric Berryman, Patrice Johnson Chevannes, by Michael Brosilow
Photo: (foreground) Eric Berryman; (background) Akiko Aizawa, Barney O’Hanlon, Stephen Duff Webber, Gian-Murray Gianino, Patrice Johnson Chevannes, by Michael Brosilow
Photo: Patrice Johnson Chevannes, Gian-Murray Gianino, Barney O’Hanlon, Stephen Duff Webber, Eric Berryman, by Michael Brosilow
Photo: courtesy of Krannert Center
Photo: courtesy of Krannert Center
Photo: courtesy of Krannert Center
Photo: courtesy of Krannert Center
Anne Bogart and Julia Wolfe
Sat, Dec 5, 2015
Anne Bogart and Julia Wolfe
Sat, Dec 5, 2015

SITI Company artistic director Anne Bogart, Bang on a Can co-founder and composer Julia Wolfe discuss the rich narrative of John Henry.

Study Guide | Theater
Steel Hammer
Steel Hammer
This online guide has been created to provide you with a wealth of background information to help you more deeply engage your students in what they will experience at BAM.
Bang on a Can All-Stars

This six-member ensemble is known for its distinctive instrumentation and performance style.

Julia Wolfe

The Pulitzer Prize winning composer is a co-founder of Bang on a Can.

SITI Company

The New York-based theater collective co-founded by Anne Bogart.

Anne Bogart

Anne Bogart is the artistic director and co-founder of SITI Company.

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