Valentine Trilogy 1
The way I see it, The House was born four times. First, in the spring of 2000 on a remarkably cold Dallas evening, around a fountain in front of SMU's Meadows School of the Arts, a truly magical production of 'A Midsommer Night's Dreame' was performed to a large and boisterous crowd. It was Nate's first crack at directing and it featured the considerable talents of Shawn Pfautsch, Matt Hawkins, Jake Minton and others. This was unofficially the first House production though the name had not been conceived and no one even lived in Chicago yet. It was the beginning. The second birth came in spring of 2001, when, after a brutally cold and lonely winter, Nate, Shawn and I received the articles of incorporation from the State of Illinois. Within weeks, we were joined in Chicago by Matt, Dennis, Johnny, Lauren, Maria and Carolyn. Work began immediately on our first production. This was officially the birth of The House Theatre of Chicago. On Halloween of 2001 came 'Death and Harry Houdini' at Live Bait. We were terrified. Opening night was a real head-trip. We had a strange pre-show psychic that seemed like a good idea right up until it started. It was not. We all felt the show was slow and confusing and we'd never even managed a uninterrupted run before the audience showed up. We cut twenty minutes from the show the next day and waited for the reviews. The critics responded with great enthusiasm and the run sold out nearly every night and gave us all the confidence that we could indeed do this thing. That we were not totally full of crap. I remember being so proud of the company on opening night, overwhelmed with fact that between the ten of us, we possessed the knowledge required to make a play and get people to come and see it. It was a very good night. 2002 brought with it the immense pressure of following up on our big hit. We spent the winter and spring hammering out a script and finding a bigger space; there were nights in Live Bait when there were so many people that there was barely enough floor space for the actors. In was in late July that The House was born yet again. 'The Terrible Tragedy of Peter Pan' seemed to be the perfect play at the perfect time. The critics raved, the audiences flocked and the House was nearly forced to sell it's soul to broker an extension. We managed to get it, though it pushed back our Houdini revival nearly an entire year. 'Peter Pan' ran for 5 months. We sold out every night for the first two months and every single Saturday of the run. During that first year of planning and preparation, we dreamed we'd one day have a sensation like this. We never dared dream it would happen so soon. We'd only just gotten started and the House died and was reborn, it was like a rocket took off but we hadn't gotten on board yet. We've been playing catch-up ever since. 2003 brought a one weekend benefit performance of 'Midsommer,' a commission from the Museum of Science and Industry and the launch of our first full season. The remount of 'Houdini,' complete with water torture cell proved a fantastic follow up to 'Peter Pan,' (which was, I might remind you, a follow up to the first 'Houdini'). We kicked off 2004 with 'San Valentino and the Melancholy Kid,' which brought feverish praise and began our three-year adventure saga, The Valentine Trilogy. Rocket Man finished the season with stellar production values and the most thrilling 3-D cartoon to ever appear on a Chicago stage. (if you know of a better one, please let me know). Our summer break was hardly that, with a remount of Melancholy kid for a sold out weekend at Theatre on the Lake and rehearsals for the season 2 opener, Stephen Taylor's ambitious and beautiful 'Cave with Man.' As I write these words, we are two days away from load in for 'Curse of the Crying Heart,' the second part of The Valentine Trilogy, and we still haven't quite found all the money we need for all the tricks and toys we've planned this time. The fever has cooled slightly and we're starting to figure out what it means to run a theatre company over the long haul. The future looks bright, with 'Dave DaVinci Saves the Universe' coming in the Spring and the exciting conclusion to The Valentine Trilogy next winter. It's been a hell of a ride and the twister shows no signs of settings us down anytime soon.' -Phillip C. Klapperich.