The Iron Stag King: Part I


A myth of crowns and country


By Chris Mathews and Nathan Allen
Directed by Nathan Allen
Music by Kevin O’Donnell
Choreography by Tommy Rapley


From the writer/director of ‘Death and Harry Houdini’ comes a new epic journey filled with heated battles and life-size puppets.


Our unsuspecting hero, Casper Kent, is the son of a poor farmer. When an old storyteller reveals that Casper is the rightful heir to the throne, his life is threatened from all sides. Young Casper must escape the crownless, choose compatriots and question what is good and right for the land. Part one of this new trilogy follows him on his quest to lift the magical hammer that will unite or destroy them all.


“An EPIC, HIGHLY ENTERTAINING affair! …an EXPANSIVE and ARRESTING new production …an AMBITIOUS and EBULLIENT piece of original theater”
- Chicago Tribune


FOUR STARS "Performed with PLAYFULNESS and POLISH, it whets our appetite for the next installment.”
- Time Out Chicago


"The action sequences are THRILLING and IMMEDIATE. The costumes, lighting and puppetry are CAPTIVATING and often EYE-POPPING!"
- NewCity Stage


"A ‘Must-See’ Show, modern mythmaking at it’s finest. Really my advice is ‘JUST GO SEE IT’”
- Centerstage

Show Dates: Aug 31 2012 to Oct 21 2012 Location:

The Chopin Theatre
1543 West Division Street, Chicago, IL 60642




  • Walter Briggs
    Wilke Forsbrand
  • Hap the Golden
  • Rienne Beaulieu
  • James D. Farruggio
    Ebon Kent
  • Ada Grey
    Ginny Girl
  • Sam Guinan-Nyhart
    Davy Boone
  • Ben Hertel
  • Kay Kron
    July of the Seven Foxes
  • Tracy Letts
    Irek Obsidian
  • Meredith Rae Lyons
    Katherine Grey
  • John Henry Roberts
    Hollow Thom
  • Casper Kent
  • Henley Hawthorne
  • Zeke Sulkes
    Gordon & Abraham Pride


  • Sarah Hoeferlin
    Stage Manager
  • Kelly A. Claussen
    Assistant Stage Manager
  • Left Wing Scenic
    Technical Direction
  • Will Dean
    Master Electrician
  • Amy Hilber
    Wardrobe Supervisor
  • Chris Orozco
    Audio Engineer
  • Liann Nicholson
    Production Management Intern
  • Gaby Labotka
    Production Assistant/Understudy


  • Scenic Designer
  • Costume Designer
  • Sarah Hughey
    Lighting Designer
  • William C. Kirkham
    Associate Lighting Designer
  • Harrison Adams
    Sound Designer
  • Composer
  • Choreographer
  • Puppet & Spectacle Design
  • Fight Choreographer
  • Dav Yendler
    Assistant Director/Illustrator
  • Sally Weiss
    Assistant Scenic Designer
  • Amy Prindle
    Assistant Costume Designer
  • Claudette Perez
    Assistant Sound Designer
  • Emma Dean
    Assistant Spectacle Designer
  • Angela Campose
    Properties Master
  • Mietka Van der Ploeg
    Costume Manager

A scene straight from Iron Stag King: Part One. Rienne makes a split-second decision to save Casper.

A Dream

A scene from The Iron Stag King: Part One.

Casper dreams of July and her Seven Foxes.

Chicago Tribune

“An EPIC, HIGHLY ENTERTAINING affair! …an EXPANSIVE and ARRESTING new production …an AMBITIOUS and EBULLIENT piece of original theater”
- Chicago Tribune

Time Out Chicago

FOUR STARS "Performed with PLAYFULNESS and POLISH, it whets our appetite for the next installment.”
- Time Out Chicago

NewCity Stage

"The action sequences are THRILLING and IMMEDIATE. The costumes, lighting and puppetry are CAPTIVATING and often EYE-POPPING!"
- NewCity Stage


"A ‘Must-See’ Show, modern mythmaking at it’s finest. Really my advice is ‘JUST GO SEE IT’”

- Centerstage

Rehearsal: The Eagle
Dungeons, Dragons, and the Iron Stag King
Rehearsal: The Stag
Rehearsal: The Foxes
Quest: A Better Battle

While the other designers labor away creating a world for the characters of The Iron Stag King, fight choreographer Justin Verstraete is looking for a way to bring them together in battle. How does a fight choreographer do research? Easy. “I’ve basically just been watching a ton of movies,” Justin joked on Tuesday. Looking back into the annals of battle history and weapons, Justin can begin to craft and practice dynamic, exciting, and downright badass fight sequences. Justin took some time from weapon drills to show me some of his favorite scenes, so take a look and get your sword arm ready.

Check out clips from Troy, Pirates of the Carribbean, and Lord of the Rings that inspired the fights in The Iron Stag King: Part One

Quest: ISK Scenic Design

In a nondescript office building in Ravenswood, the intrepid adventurers of the The Iron Stag King production team face one their biggest challenges yet: building a theatre within a theatre.

At the crack of dawn (college student time, it was actually only 9:00 AM) on May 22nd, the team gathered around the House table, coffee in hand. Nearly everyone was present, including three designers peering in remotely through the oracle of the Skype webcam. Production manager Jeremy Wilson handed the floor to scenic designer Collette Pollard. With her primary research and a pile of ground-plans laid out, Collette revealed her “white model” of the set. Cut out of foam core and glued together, this is a scenic designer’s first draft of how the stage and theatre will look for a particular show. It offers everyone a three dimensional impression of how the space will feel with tactile pieces to move and play around with. As the conversation evolves, it will be revised, changed, and eventually painted and given to a scene shop to reference as they build the final product.

Inspired by a warm image of a votive candle, Collette’s design is essentially a theatre within a theatre. It places the audience at four corners of the action, but surrounded by wooden planks and walls. The high, slatted walls, covered in a light plexiglass, rise up behind the audience, hopefully bringing them together as if huddled around a late night campfire. That’s the goal: to gather the audience in an intimate place that whisks them away to a world where stories themselves are magic. “It’s not a sexy set,” Collette says earnestly. “It’s an attempt by humans to create a space for story.”

This simple goal influences every decision, including how exactly the walls surrounding the audience look. Collette switches out pieces of her model box to show options. Will there be vertical as well as horizontal lines? Will the lines be straight or rough-hewn? And, to top it all off, how exactly is everyone going to get in? “I’m bringing you art,” Collette joked, “and distilling it down to the question of how to get a wheelchair in.”

Anyone who’s attended a handful of shows at the House knows that the company rarely repeats the same audience arrangement twice. Without a seating layout set in stone, the scenic designer’s job goes beyond the already daunting challenge of creating an immersive environment for the world of the play. They must also consider the practicality of their arrangements and ensure the audience can enter, sit down, and be comfortable for the duration of the show. The artists at the House, where community and storytelling are bedrock to their mission, take the goal of serving both the piece and the audience very seriously. It’s up to Collette and fellow mythmaker Nathan Allen to make sure seating and viewing is accessible for everyone without compromising their artistic goals. Possibilities? Shrink the space, make benches removable, or both. A twelve square foot playing space, or a fifteen square foot one?

“It’s really exciting to design seating for an audience,” Collette admits as her fellow designers nod in agreement. It’s a major goal for our heroes, to be mindful of the safety and comfort of their audiences. “We learned a lot from Odradek,” Nathan Allen jokes, referring to the show’s backless bench seating arrangement. After hearing complaints of discomfort, the team doesn’t plan to make the same mistakes twice. And what about all the swordplay, and the other design for the stage itself? Don’t worry, they’re ready for that too—more soon!

Stay tuned as our noble party of heroes finalize design decisions amidst the blinding heat of a Chicago summer to bring you The Iron Stag King this Fall!

The Adventure Begins

The mission of the House is to unite Chicago in the spirit of community through amazing feats of storytelling. The hope is that the audience leaves the theatrical experience feeling “a little less alone and a little more connected to the people in the room,” artistic director Nate Allen says. If you’ve ever seen a House show, you know that this goal manifests itself in a different way every time.

At the first read and rehearsal on Sunday, Nate brought everyone together (cast, designers, staff, and interns alike) into a circle and explained why he did so. Standing in circles is, for the most part, familiar to the theatre community. It’s about respecting everyone’s role in the process and about a feeling of collaboration. The united circle makes everyone feel like a member of the team, and that’s reinforced when Nate brings everyone’s hands to the center at the end of a pow wow. It’s the little things like this that unite this party of heroes.

It’s at this moment that the process merges together. The cast and designers sit down together in the same room over the pages of a (mostly) final product. The hundred pages have become a play, a full-fledged piece of literature, and it’s awesome. Cast members and designers alike have done the preliminary work, and now they join together to embark on the true adventure—bringing the play to life.

After Nate introduces the play and the process of writing it, he calls forward each designer to present their work to the cast. Designer presentations are a part of most every rehearsal process, and gives the cast a chance to envision the world they’re going to be playing in.


Melissa Torchia, our fearless costume designer, presents each of her fully rendered drawings to the cast and crew. For this show, Nate says, costumes were his way in. They helped him to understand the world that he and co-writer Chris Matthews had created, which he described to the cast as “King Arthur in parallel proto-America.”


The rest of the designers step forward and show off everything I’ve told you about already, and the cast gets more and more excited with each speaker before the time comes to read the most recent draft of The Iron Stag King.


The cast works together when reading, making eye contact and rehearsing even when they’re not up on their feet. It’s a chance to interact and connect early in the process. It’s a bit more in line with voice acting than it is reading in English class. Many get animated and excited. It’s a thrill to watch.


The new draft is even better than the old. 


Speaking as a proud nerd, The Iron Stag King is a unique and phenomenal contribution to the genre. Paying homage to the likes Tolkien, White, Brooks, and more, it carves it’s own place out among these greats. Scheming villains, proud heroes, and everything in between populate the pages to tell a uniquely American story that sinks its claws in and never lets go.


What’s next? Chris Matthews says it best. “The goal throughout is to make everything awesome. Everything exists, now I’m looking forward to making everything awesome.” Pretty straightforward, right?


Seriously. This play is sick. Get excited. The Iron Stag King opens 8/31/12 and runs until 10/21/12.