In 1999, I knew nothing (I still don’t know much).
In that same year, Hurricane Floyd slammed into the Atlantic coast of North Carolina, flooding the industrial pig farm operations that had been built along the state’s rivers, sending one hundred and ten thousand pig carcasses back down those rivers and out toward the sea. The mass slaughter brought on by the storm also exposed (at least to me) the truth about American pork production.
Pig farms, apparently, were no longer the idyllic family affairs described in Charlotte’s Web or Babe or The Big Red Barn, but corporatized, mechanized meat factories designed to deliver food to the American dinner table as quickly and cheaply as possible. Reading accounts of Hurricane Floyd and its aftermath became the inspiration for Pig Farm.
I began writing Pig Farm on rehearsal breaks from Urinetown as we worked toward the Broadway transfer. I finished a first draft sometime around 2003. The play premiered as a co-production at the Roundabout Theatre in New York City, and The Old Globe in San Diego, in 2006. Pig Farm was produced the next year at South Coast Rep in Cosa Mesa.
While driving my daughter to college in Chicago, I visited a few small, Midwestern farms to find out what I could about American agriculture before Pig Farm’s London premiere. Read on.