"It's one of those things you don't even know is missing until you find it. But when you do, you let out a prayer of thanks. "Yes!" you want to exclaim. "This is what's needed." I walked into the Heartland Studio Theatre to see Halcyone Productions' Ironmistress, sat down, and looked around. And there it was. That missing thing. It oozed out of Charlie Levin's gorgeous set, Glenn Swan's haunting sound design, even the program. Integrity. Theatrical integrity.
"Here was a new theater company that obviously cared about its audience."
— Maura Troester, Chicago Reader
Faced with a stage no larger than 11 x 13 feet, I created a 3-sided mural of the English landscape that from the audience's vantage point opened the walls up to a distant horizon.
The play speaks to the social customs in Victorian England, constraining the women in the play.
Supporting that, the set portrayed multiple layers of "civilization" over the raw English landscape — nature, industry, domesticity, and urbanity. Cut into the walls were the shapes of the windows of skyscrapers, indicating the cities to come. A sculptural rendition of a Victorian-era ironworks lay in front of the mural. The domestic space, in which most of the action of the play occurred, was minimally indicated by columns of drapery in a circle.
Visual layers reflect the layers of custom constraining the Victorian women in this play. The women are surrounded first by the domestic realm, delineated by sheer white columns of fabric. Beyond that lay the ironworks, an Escher-like maze of arches and stairs. Beyond that the unending landscape, but even that is already etched with the windows of cities that are yet to come.
Halcyone Productions / Heartland Studio Theater / Chicago / 1994
Performed by Jennifer Yeo and Tina Fey (yes, that Tina Fey)
Directed by Christine Hartman
Sound design by Glenn Swan
Lighting by Christie Jones