The Iron Stag King House Theatre of Chicago

"..Expansive and arresting new production... an epic, highly entertaining affair" - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 9/10/12


* * * * - "..expansive fantasy encompasses both a traditional heroe's journey and musings on the nature of good government..performed and staged with playfulness and polish.. " - Kris Vire, TimeOut Chicago 9/13/12

Five Shows to See Now - "..action sequences are thrilling and immediate. Likewise the costumes, lighting and puppetry are captivating and often eye-popping" - Zach Freeman, NewCity Chicago 9/10/12

“Iron Stag King” is more than great theatre, it is modern mythmaking at its finest" - Rory Leahy,

Highly Recommended - "Ambitious fantasy epic is pure vintage  House Theatre at their best" - Tom Williams,


Sep 2nd - Oct 21st.  Tickets $25. 

Box Office 773-769-3832

09/02/12 - 10/21/12

Thu-Sat 8p; Sun 7p


It's the dawn of a big, new, fantastical world at House Theatre - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 9/10/12 - "The program of the House Theatre of Chicago's expansive and arresting new production, "The Iron Stag King, Part One" comes replete with a hand-drawn map of a fantastical land, not so different, really, from the maps that J.R.R. Tolkien prepared for the published versions of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings." At the House Theatre,  the glossy cartography depicts not Tolkien's Middle Earth, but a fictive island replete with distinct and enigmatic lands: Grass, Salt, Glaze, Arcadia.

Authors Nathan Allen and Chris Mathews are openly borrowing from Tolkien given that their show, the first in an intended trilogy, is formed around a journey and a quest  of a group of companions, of constantly shifting loyalties, through a mythic landscape of indeterminate time, place and humanity. But he's hardly the only influence on  this ambitious and ebullient piece of original theater. The story, a kind of mythological mashup, begins with the secret removal of a baby on the antlers of the titular  beast, who then grows up like Sophocles' Oedipus, ignorant of his true identity. Once people find where this Casper Kent (Brandon Ruiter) is, they come to get him and  he's got to figure out whom to follow.

The hero of this tale seeks to lift up something called the hammer, which has lot in common with King Arthur's Excalibur. There are Shakespearean riffs on the limits of  benign monarchical rule and, given, the main themes of revolution followed by divided republicanism, even a few nods to E.L. Doctorow. Allen and Mathews may love comic  books and fantasy drama, but they're romantic, moralist Americans at heart, wearing their hearts and boyish excitement on their sleeves, even when that leads them to  overplay their metaphoric hands. They've even got puppets here that have something in common with the critters of "War Horse." And neither Tolkien nor Doctorow had the  recorded, creepily authoritarian voice of Tracy Letts filling us in on the earth-cracking narrative so far, like a Hollywood narrator gone to hell.

Those whose eyes glaze over at fantasy gaming and fiction will likely want "The Iron Stag King" to butt out long before its 21/2 are up, if they even want to wrestle  with its antlers at all. The show, which premiered Sunday night, is at least 15 minutes too long and, more importantly, its initially zestful narrative drive gets  overwhelmed in the second act by flashbacks and digressions that sideline the crucial main intention. Lose the overarching point in a world as complex as this one,  and you lose your audience. It seems that Allen and Mathews were unsure about how whole hog to go into their mythological realm — the House Theatre's house style generally is to acknowledge artifice and the viewer, but this show does so only intermittently, when it needs to forge a more consistent style of engagement and cue  the audience by making clear how seriously it wants to take itself. Fantasy-loving folks are sticklers for rules. Allen and Mathews seem a tad self-conscious about  being grown men delving into this kind of stuff. They should banish that. It's a free country here, if not in all the corners of the island of their invention.

House Theatre always has been about young audiences and fantastical sagas, even if the creatives involved are not so young anymore. "Iron Stag King," which features  the return to House of the story-spinning actor Cliff Chamberlain, among many other pleasures, is an epic, highly entertaining affair of warring snakes, dodgy  narrators and superhuman combat skills, all staged in a space about the size of the wrestling ring. The fights, choreographed by Justin Verstraete, are intense  indeed. And even if the narrative is not easy to fully grasp on a single viewing (the same could be said of Tolkien), there's no doubt that Allen and Mathews have  painted a picture of the world some of us children used to see when we closed our eyes at night.

For all the testosterone on display by juicy actors like Walter Briggs and James D. Farruggio, there are plenty of powerful women in the story, played by the likes  of Paige Collins and the terrific Kay Kron, taking on males both human and mythical and hanging with all kinds of wolves. As the main villain of the piece (maybe),  Joey Steakley comes with a very interesting, faux-colonialist nastiness, part of a theatrical map with many overlapping lands indeed, evocatively designed by Collette Pollard with puppets and other specialties by Lee Keenan.

If you can give yourself over fully to the yarn and the landscape (and House should keep working, and cutting, to remove all impediments), the question of who gets to raise the hammer and what that means for the regular folks will be a delightful escape from reality, even if that very same question currently fills the airwaves.


Quest for the lost point: In the House Theatre's The Iron Stag King, a magic hammer isn't enough - Keith Griffith, Chicago Reader 9/13/12 - "Deep in the second act of The Iron Stag King: Part One—a visually lush but utterly confusing new fantasy romp from the House Theatre of Chicago—our underdog heroes wheel  out a scale model of a battlefield and review their plan for the climactic confrontation. It's a classic, even hackneyed exposition scene, but I drank it in like a marathon runner at the mile-20 water station. At last I had a clear  sense of what these characters were thinking, and why. So what if the only goal is to grab a magic hammer and ring a bell? A quest I can understand is one I can get behind, so let's go find that hammer.

Maybe that makes me denser than the typical House Theatre audience member (though the strangers I quizzed at intermission seemed to feel as lost as I did). Or maybe cowriter/director Nathan Allen is banking on the notion that archetype matters more than specifics in the fantasy genre—that good guys go on a quest because that's what
good guys do, and details are for Muggles.

The quest-addled good guy in this case is Casper Kent, played by fresh-faced Brandon Ruiter. Born to a benevolent queen in an era of violent democratic reform, Kent was smuggled out of harm's way as an infant, to the safekeeping of a simple woodsman who's been raising him unaware of his royal lineage. As he reaches young adulthood, Casper falls under the influence of the wandering storyteller Hap the Golden, a trickster/guide who catalyzes the story's meandering quest. Kent, Hap, and the rest of their merry band set out to defeat the violent antiroyalist demagogue Henley Hawthorne, played with delightful puritan starch by Joey Steakley.

There's probably a commentary on the promise and danger of democracy rattling around in all of this, but I'll be damned if I can find it. If fantasy is a pastiche of  cultures and myths, the script Allen has written with fellow House member Chris Mathews is a pastiche of pastiches. The authors have blended medieval Arthurian lore  with revolver-toting cowboy tropes, and thrown in Hawthorne's Cromwellian antics as a kicker. Hawthorne is nominally a proponent of democracy, but one suspects that he's only really keen on the type of democracy where he holds all the votes.

Contrast that base opportunism with what's presented here as an equally dangerous yet noble monarchy. Legend has it that the magic hammer can only be hefted by true royalty—and once hefted, well, usurpers beware. Although the hammer's only magic property seems to be its choosiness about who can lift it, it's pretty big. A clop or two from that thing will do some damage.

If The Iron Stag King's message about power and government is obscure, perhaps it's because the House folks poured most of their energy into making the production look awesome. Collette Pollard's set is a tight, empty square in the center of a tiered seating ring; together with Melissa Torchia's vivid costuming, it makes you feel like you're watching a game of Dungeons and Dragons come to life. Lee Keenan's stunning steampunk puppetry is a unifying visual element amid the riot of Old West  and medieval motifs, blending industrial-age angularity with the heraldic look of such creations as the iron stag, a pack of foxes, and a very large contrivance that's  best left undiscussed.

Harrison Adams's sound design is equally rich, reaching Lost-esque levels of suspense thanks to Kevin O'Donnell's ominous original score. As a bonus, Steppenwolf Theatre  heavy Tracy Letts voices a shadowy villain called Irek Obsidian.

But a show of this scale and ambition needs something more going for it than fantastic aesthetics and technical savvy, as important as those things are. In the end, the  fantasy genre boils down to creating a weird but recognizable place where relatable characters do the astonishing things we wish we could. What The Iron Stag King lacks  is the relatable characters. Occasional stabs at untangling their motivations fall short; at one point, for instance, the ghost of a minor character's dead daughter appears onstage, providing the first and last inkling that her father is anything more than muscle on the mission. Rather than make me care, the moment just baffled  me.

So even though there's no sin quite as bad as providing too much exposition, and even though it was too little too late, that battlefield model came as a welcome relief. A good dungeon master has to focus on the fundamentals of plot, allow for the cultivation of character, and make the stakes clear. Maybe in the follow-up  installments to this trilogy, Allen can leave the model out onstage for the duration".

**** The Iron Stag King: Part One - Kris Vire, TimeOut Chicago 9/13/12 - "Nathan Allen’s genre-spanning Valentine Trilogy, staged between 2004 and 2006, helped cement the House Theatre’s early following.

Now, to open the House’s 11th season, artistic director Allen and fellow company member Chris Mathews launch another planned trilogy with this expansive fantasy that encompasses both a traditional hero’s journey and, more surprising, musings on the nature of good government.

The plot rests explicitly on the power of stories; two of this first installment’s most powerful characters, Hap the Golden (Cliff Chamberlain,  masterfully mixing affability and sociopathy) and the mystical July of the Seven Foxes (Kay Kron), literally shape their world via storytelling.   “Stories are powerful, magical things,” states one character; “All of nature is audience,” says another.

Perhaps appropriately, that world draws heavily on existing narratives in a kind of myth-synthesis (synthologizing?): Our band of heroes quests for  a hammer that can only be lifted by a true-born heir to the throne, evoking both Excalibur and Thor’s Mjölnir; said orphan king, Casper Kent (Brandon Ruiter),  pointedly shares his adoptive father’s surname with Superman’s secret identity.

Allen and Mathews tweak the traditional Game of Thrones conceit by setting the once and future monarch against a seemingly villainous fop (Joey Steakley)  whose ultimate goal is to establish representative democracy, supported by an uprising of “the Crownless.” Peppered with images of rattlesnakes and eagles  and references to the Gadsden flag, with combatants sporting six-shooters as well as swords, part one of The Iron Stag King could be read as a fantastical
allegory for the debate over the early American soul. Staged and performed with playfulness and polish, it whets our appetite for the next installment".


Recommended - The Iron Stag King: Part One/The House Theatre of Chicago - Zach Freeman, NewCity Chicago 9/10/12.  "Wizards. Pirates. Vikings. Politics. Tracy Letts voicing a giant dragon. The first show of the House Theatre’s eleventh season is nothing if not ambitious.  Striving to be epic, playwrights Chris Mathews and Nathan Allen (who also serves as artistic director of The House and director of this production) have sought to cram a multitude of themes, characters and backstory into the two-and-a-half-hour part one of the “Iron Stag King” trilogy. Intertwining the  legends of King Arthur with early American politics and fantasy sensibilities, the story follows storyteller Hap the Golden (Cliff Chamberlain) as he  leads a stalwart (if unsure) young man (Brandon Ruiter), a team of warriors and a fanboy (Ben Hertel, providing ample comedic relief) to reclaim a magic  hammer and thus the crown of the land. With seating arranged in an arena-like square around an open set allowing for four entrances and exits, the action  sequences are thrilling and immediate. Likewise the costumes (Melissa Torchia), lighting (Sarah Hughey) and puppetry (Lee Keenan) are captivating and often  eye-popping. But much of the plot development is unfortunately slow and stilted. The result is sometimes a bit like riding a roller coaster with incredible dips and turns at only ten miles an hour".

Iron Stag King: Part One - Rory Leahy, 9/10/12 - "Ten years ago, the House Theatre of Chicago made a name for itself using first rate technical skills to bring pop genres like science fiction and fantasy to
 the stage in a decidedly non-cheesy way. One of their signature productions was the epic, genre-hopping “Valentine Trilogy.” I’ve seen many of the subsequent  House productions, some rather overrated, and none, in my opinion, ever captured that previous burst of magic. Until now.

Valentine author Nathan Allen, in collaboration with Chris Matthews, is back with the first part of another epic trilogy, and so far it is at least the equal  of its predecessor. It is my custom to describe the plot of a new work in broad strokes, but really my advice is “just go see it.”

The play is a riff on the Arthurian mythos as well as that of the Norse gods. But beyond that, Allen and Minton have reconceptualized these ancient tales to  fit particularly American themes. It’s a brilliantly innovative fusion that must be seen to be comprehended. Casper Kent (Brandon Ruiter) is a good hearted  foundling who is trained by the mysterious magician/storyteller Hap the Golden (Cliff Chamberlain) to reclaim a magical hammer that will grant him power
over the land. In this endeavor he is opposed by “the crownless,” a group of populist demagogues led by Henley Hawthorne (Joey Steakley) best described as  Evil Thomas Jefferson.

As co-writer and director, Allen creates an amazing visual feast in which medieval knights, pirates, cowboys and colonial fops coexist. And it all makes sense.

Allen and Matthews mine this mythology for thoughtful sociopolitical themes. Fairy tales traditionally reveal a bias toward aristocracy. The  noble blooded prince must claim the power which is his birthright. Democracy here is initially viewed with suspicion and the potential corruption.   But nothing is that simple and it’s made clear long before the stunning denouement that the truths we cling to depend on our point of view.

“Iron Stag King” is more than great theatre, it is modern mythmaking at its finest".

Highly Recommended - Ambitious fantasy epic is pure vintage  House Theatre at their best - Tom Williams, 9/10/12 - "The first part of Nathan Allen and Chris Mathews’ new trilogy, The Iron Stag King: Part One is a complex epic of crowns and country using elements of the King  Arthur and Norse mythology with sprinkles of American fable themes. Utilizing all the House stylistic elements including puppets,  miniature models,  strong lighting, unique costumes  with ample sprinklings of humor, this story has richly layered storytelling that explores the nature of leadership, governance with the unique American struggle to balance personal liberty with actions for the common good of society.

We meet the boy heir, Casper Kent (Brandon Ruiter) raised as a farmer yet destined to be king with the help of an old storyteller Hap the Golden (Cliff Chamberlain). Hap insists that Casper is the rightful heir to a single throne which will unite the land. Casper is the only one who can stop  the murderous and destructive forces of Henley Hawthorne (Joey Steakley). We witness young Casper has he, under the leadership of Hap the Golden,  escapes the clutches of Hawthorne with the help of a quirky group of compatriots including  a two-gunned fellow, a bow & arrow yielding woman, a mighty
 warrior and a funny servant/photographer.

This determined group  must escape the clutches of Hawthrone and journey to the ancient city so Casper can lift the magical hammer to become king thus uniting  the land. This fast paced and complex story has minsters, loads of  sword fighting and gun play as the battles and killings mount. Intertwining  medieval myth  with political maneuvering  and replete with magic, dragons, wolves, Casper’s adventures become a quest for right where power is masked as democracy and  deceit and betrayal loom.

One of the many elements nicely accomplished by the creatives at The House Theatre are the fine blend of rich storytelling with empathetic, often humorous, characters including a most obnoxious villain and a host of colorful characters. The cast is energetic, deft at stage combat and fully engaged in their  characters. This makes for a fun hero’s journey that captivates us throughout. Cliff Chamberlian, as Hap and Joey Steakley as Hawthorne anchor a cast  that includes funny work by Ben Hertel as Pepper and  empathetic work from Brandon Ruiter as Casper. We are on the edge of our seats in anticipation
 of the next wild happening. As with most House Theatre shows, The Iron Stag  King is a High Fantasy work that takes us into a unique world where the good guys and the evil ones are not as obvious as we thing; where alliances and friends may not be as loyal as expected. This adds up to a highly successful  and stimulating fun evening of theatre. With odes to R.R.martin, Tolkein and Dungeons & Dragons, Allen and Mathews have written a complex, yet free-flowing  adventure that delivers.  The two hour plus journey is a fun romp through myth and fantasy. You’ll be cheering Casper".

Fall Theater Guide 2012: Top 10 new works worth a risk - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 8/30/12. ""The new fall theater season in Chicago features plenty of Broadway blockbusters such as "War Horse" and "The Book of Mormon," and even a few star actors like Diane Lane.  But Chicago is, above all, known as a tryout town, an experimental city, a boundary crosser.  It's world-premiere central, a Midwestern citadel of new and daring works of live performance.  Any theater lover in these parts should have a taste for adventure. But what are your best bets?  We've combed the fall performance schedules with an eye to offering some suggestions for the progressive theatergoer: the arts fan who likes to be surprised and challenged. On this list, you'll find solo tours de force, world premieres, Midwest premieres, Chicago premieres, experiments and all the risk-taking any audience member could want. For my overall top-10 list for the fall, check back on Sept. 9 in A&E.

'The Iron Stag King': For fans of the House Theatre, "The Valentine Trilogy" was a series of shows staged between 2004 and 2006 that featured (as I said at the time) "cattle, illusions, cowboys, romance, a Mormon avenger, a revenge plot and a rock band sitting behind a fake rock" and a seminal moment for this creative theater company. Now, with the House ensemble members at very different points in their lives, artistic director Nathan Allen and collaborator Chris Mathews have an all-new trilogy ready to unleash. Not only does "The Iron Stag King (Part One)" feature some of  House's best-loved ensemble players, including Cliff Chamberlain and Joey Steakley, it marks the theater's return to mythic original  storytelling — in this case set in the kind of fantastical world beloved by fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and gamers everywhere".

The House Theatre of Chicago mounts The Iron Stag King: Part One.  Cowriters Nathan Allen and Chris Mathews meld Arthurian fantasy and Americana in the  first installment of a new stage trilogy - Oliver Sava,  TimeOut Chicago 8/30/12.  "Seated in a circle on the floor, the cast of The Iron Stag King reads
 through the final scene of the House Theatre of Chicago’s new play. While many of the company’s past productions have incorporated elements of magic or the supernatural, this is its first foray into the genre of high fantasy. Fittingly for a play inspired by Arthurian legend, the seating arrangement calls to mind the Knights of the Round Table, with director, cowriter and House artistic director Nathan Allen serving as the King Arthur of this rehearsal-room Camelot.

“My interest in King Arthur was always this idea that Camelot falls due to the contradiction of the round table,” Allen, 34, says in the House’s Uptown office. “It can be as round as it wants to be, but one of the chairs is still a throne and one of the knights has a crown and Excalibur. There’s interesting potential in having that ideal community threatened by the idea that one of them is more powerful than the others. There are all kinds of things echoing for me in how leaders lead, and how heroes can be the savior and downfall of their community.”

“And we want there to be wizards involved,” cowriter Chris Mathews, 32, adds with a laugh.

Conceived by Allen as an adaptation of Arthurian mythology, the original idea was shelved until last year. With the assistance of fellow company members  Mathews and Phillip C. Klapperich, Allen folded the King Arthur elements into a larger fantasy world and began work on The Iron Stag King, the first part of  a proposed trilogy.

The story, which should be familiar to any fantasy buff, follows a young orphan and his questmates as they embark on a journey to find the mythical weapon that  will save a kingdom. The twist? That kingdom resembles a turn-of-the-19th-century United States. “It ends up looking very much like the French and Indian War,” Allen says. The writers name the works of Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, Walt Simonson’s Thor comic books and Dungeons & Dragons games from their youth as helping them accrue a rich fantasy vocabulary. But their biggest story influences come from two unlikely sources: The Federalist Papers and Ken Burns’s documentary The Civil War.

“I’ve been calling it a parallel proto-America,” Allen says. “Because that’s what Arthur is, it’s a proto–United Kingdom. When we’re porting it over to America, we  start talking about American translations of those symbols, about kings and rebels and not knowing whose side we should be on and a conflict between the idea of  sacrifice for the greater good and the protection of our personal liberties. It sounds supertimely, but is more primal than political for us.”

The rehearsal’s circular seating reflects the production’s in-the-round staging, which emphasizes the play’s primitive, communal aspects. “There’s an effort in  the design to make it as primal and holy as possible, to feel like we’re all sitting around a campfire telling this story,” Allen says. “I think we’re good at  designing spectacle that invites the audience to participate.”

“That’s probably due to our budgetary restraints,” Mathews says. “Because of those limitations, we tend to create just enough that etches out the vessel of what  we want the audience to imagine on their own.”

Rehearsal Report: House Theatre’s “Iron Stag King” Crawls Dungeons, Battles Dragons and More…
By Eric Shoemaker - NewCity Chicago 8/29/12.  - "
House Theatre artistic director Nathan Allen and Chris Mathews have partnered to create the epic trilogy “The Iron Stag King,” which Allen describes as the tale of “Arthur, in a parallel proto-America.” This pioneer American/Norse/British fantasy adventure, with over thirty cast and staff members, was slated for production at the end of their tenth season, but was pushed back when “Death and Harry Houdini” went into an extended run as one of the most popular shows of the year.

Ten years old, House Theatre creates immersive experiences for viewers. “There is no moat separating the audience from the performance. Our goal is, when the audience leaves, for them to feel less alone,” says Allen. The company is chomping at the bit to put on its dungeon-crawling, violent show, which is filled with zany segmented metal animal puppets, flying lights, algorithmic sounds and Tolkienesque costumes. The writers shared their hopes, dreams, and tongue-in-cheek qualms about their massive Dungeons and Dragons meets cowboys and Indians baby in interviews during and after “Iron Stag King”’s first rehearsal.

Nathan, you’ve written for House many times before, including “The Sparrow,” which won a Jeff award, and the Valentine trilogy. How does your experience with Valentine inform “Stag”?

NA: We were significantly younger when we did the Valentine trilogy. We were still learning what kinds of stories we were interested in. Valentine was a conscious effort to experiment with hero-ness. I was a big Joseph Campbell nut, figuring out how do these kinds of stories work, and with Valentine we were basically trying to make our version of Star Wars. The epic scope allows for the span of that conversation. I was never fully satisfied by the Valentine trilogy, and now it’s time to revisit it from another angle. If that was “Star Wars,” this is “The Dark Knight,” more mature and intelligent. Not that “Star Wars” isn’t mature and intelligent…

House is billing “Iron Stag” as an attempt to “explore the nature of leadership, governance and the American struggle to balance personal liberty with sacrifice for a greater good.” Unpack that massive mantra for me.

NA: (Laughs) The first trilogy was an analysis, retrospectively, of what we were dealing with during 9/11. It was all about injustice, or pain, and dealing with it on a scale of forgiveness, justice or revenge, and how that affects our spirit and our character as people. This is looking at an American popular problem: The King Arthur structure of the “round” table, but one of the dudes is wearing a crown. Arthur is the nationalist myth for England; I’m interested in looking at what ours are. It’s looking at those ideas of governance, community, union… through a magic hammer and a dragon and things. Camelot fails, and so must ours. It must be revealed to be only a myth.

This production’s timeframe was pushed back by the extraordinary run of “Death and Harry Houdini.” Did it change anything about this show, or your perceptions of what House audiences will expect?

NA: You always want more time! And this is literally buying more time. Hopefully something like 10,000 people have seen “Houdini” by the end, and if we hadn’t kept it running, they wouldn’t have known about “Iron Stag.”

CM: It’s an opportunity or a damnation, and I’m gonna say it’s an opportunity to give a little variety to the audience. We’ve made so many new audience members with “Houdini,” and this show is gonna be a big swing in a different direction. I hope it’ll show off the other styles of performing that we’re interested in. “Houdini” has set the bar high, but this show’s gonna match that. We will meet our own standards.

Nate, in a promotional video online you used some Dungeons & Dragons lingo. “The tank attacks the thing… somebody shoots arrows at that thing, somebody casts spells to heal the dude taking the damage… somebody else is running around and stabbing it in the back!” At the risk of sounding ridiculous, are there dungeon crawls in this?

NA: Totally! We embrace the popular part of the mythology, that’s the fun stuff, the candy. Fantasy is fun for people, which is why it exists—there is something romantic and playful about it. D&D works pretty well, or World of Warcraft… There’s a billion people playing that game or something! And there’s something true about its storytelling that makes it work.

“Cyrano” just won fight choreography at the Jeffs. What’s your approach to violence in “Iron Stag,” and how will popular fantasy culture like D&D influence the fight choreography?

NA: That’s a good question. Hopefully it’s awesome, that’s all that matters! “Last of the Mohicans” stuff, butting people with rifles after only having one bullet…

CM: With “Cyrano,” there was so much elegance in the swordplay that even as deadly a weapon as a sword is, it is still a gentleman’s art. So much was about the spectacle of the swordplay. With this world, with the West and guerrilla, martial and melee fighting styles, it lends itself to being hopefully a bit more brutal and savage. Rifle butt to the face… Different visceral experience.

NA: Swords, bows and arrows and flintlocks. And a cannon.

And… a cannon?

CM: The suggestion of a cannon (laugh) offstage. To blow apart some infantry lines. There are really massive battles to some extent, and good one on one action. The proximity will make it feel like massive melee.

The overall design is fit for an epic—what about sound design?

NA: Harrison is modeling sound like wind cues and rain cues, not using the “bucket” of sound libraries… With modeling you are creating a computer program—and video games do this—that responds to your modeling an environment. You mathematically create the sound of wind out of a sine wave, and filter that through the sine wave of pine trees, which sounds different than wind on a desert. Allows us a kind of crazy control over giving the audience this immersive experience. The magic of theater.

Crazy. What ideas would you like to play with in the future?

NA: Those are my secrets… I wanna write Superman! My movie of Superman would be the best ever. Otherwise, we’re always looking for whatever is inspiring us in the moment for how to give the audience a fun, immersive, special and moving experience in some way. Sometimes that comes out as this crazy American fantasy or as a cheerleader with super-powers. It’s not about the genre; it’s about giving a uniquely moving experience that feels amazing"


From House Theatre - Artistic Director and author of The Valentine Trilogy, Nathan Allen, returns to the epic format with a new multi-year play cycle. The Iron Stag King Trilogy combines the classical fantasy of King Arthur and Norse mythology with uniquely American themes. The trilogy will employ epic-fantasy structures to explore the nature of leadership, governance, and the American struggle to balance personal liberty with sacrifice for a greater good.

In this first installment, Casper Kent is guided by an old storyteller named Hap the Golden. Young Casper must escape The Crownless, win compatriots, and risk his life to claim an ancient and magical hammer capable of uniting the realm.

Chris Matthews and Nathan Allen

Nathan Allen

Walter Briggs, Cliff Chamberlain, Paige Collins, James D. Farruggio, Ada Grey, Sam Guinan-Nyhart, Ben Hertel, Kay Kron, Tracey Letts, Meredith Rae Lyons, John Henry Roberts, Brandon Ruiter, Joey Steakley, Zeke Sulkes

Scenic Design - Collette Pollard; Costume Design - Melissa Torchja; Light Design - Sarah Hughey; Associate Light Design - Willaim C. Kirkham; Sound Design - Harrison Adams; Composer - Kevin O'Donnell; Choreographer - Tommy Rapley; Pupert/Spectacle Design - Lee Keenan; Fight Choreographer - Justin Verstraete; Stage Manager - Sarah Hoeferlin; Asst Director & Illustrator - Dav Yendler; Asst Scenic Designer - Sally Weiss; Asst Costume Designer - Amy Prindle; Asst Sound Designer - Claudette Perez; Asst Spectacle Design - Emaa Dean; Properties Master - Angelas Campos; Asst Stage Manager - Kelly A. Claussen; Technical Direction - Left Wing Scenic; Master Electrician - Will Dean; Costume Manager - Mieka van der Ploeg; Wardrobe Supervisor - Amy Hilber; Audio Engineer - Chris Orozco; Photography - Michael Brosilow

Tags: Theater, American, 2012