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.