Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Workday Wednesday - Carl Stohn, Jr., Chicago Producer and Director


While going through some pictures, I found this picture of my parents with Carl Stohn, Jr. (far right) a man who should be a Chicago legend. Sadly, he is not. This blog post is my feeble attempt to write something about this great man who I remember fondly. Carl Stohn, Jr. was born in Canada but moved to Chicago sometime before 1950. When my father first introduced me to Mr. Stone, I was a young girl, probably around 1968. For the next 10 years I would meet with and talk to Mr. Stohn. My father ran a business that provided seminars (and an annual conference) to electronic engineers. The seminars lasted a week and were arranged by my father four times a year. When my father moved his offices from Wabash Avenue in downtown Chicago to the suburb of Oak Brook, he began hosting the seminars at Pheasant Run Inn located in St. Charles, Illinois. It was here my father met Carl Stohn, Jr. who produced and directed plays at the theater in Pheasant Run. The theater was a new concept - dinner theater. During his career in Chicago, he directed many of the great screen legends in popular plays of the day.
By 1950 he was already a well known producer and at that time also acted. During this time he produced plays for the only winter stock company outside of the New York area. When Carl Stohn joined forces with Tony DeSantis to produce and direct plays at Drury Lane Theater in Evergreen Park, the concept of dinner theater was new. Mr. Stohn was an innovator in the industry. When Pheasant Run opened their dinner theater they recruited Carl Stohn to produce and direct their plays. He had a reputation in the industry and was able to attract many big name stars to perform in his plays. Pheasant Run Dinner Theater was set up like a restaurant on multiple levels with a stage in the front. Patrons would enjoy a full course meal followed by good entertainment. He was well spoken, witty and a very sharp dresser. He was a class act. He also liked a bit of flash and always wore stunning jeweled cuff links and several diamond rings.
On August 21, 1980 Carl Stohn, Jr. was brutally assaulted, mugged and shot in the head. Several south side gang members were put on trial for his murder. It is ironic his death occurred around the same time as the decline in popularity of dinner theater. Although he seems to have been forgotten by most, I will always remember him.





4 comments:

  1. I knew Carl well, as he was my uncle. I also have ended up in show business--producing television including such shows as "Degrassi". I visited Carl often in Chicago--and still have a copy of the National Enquirer which featured him with Phyllis Diller on the cover--supposedly engaged to be married!
    Stephen Stohn

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  2. As I am sure you know, he directed her at Pheasant Run. I happened to see her there. He was such a nice man!

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  3. Carl cast me in my first professional acting role at the Drury Lane Theater, appearing with Maureen O'Sullivan. When he opened the Pheasant Run Theater I became part of his resident company. Carl then called in an agent from William Morris in NYC to view me in a role Carl selected solely to give me a showcase, and I was off to Broadway. Carl had an irrepressible cheerfulness that was totally infectious. He treated everyone with the greatest respect, be it an audience member, a walk-on actor, or a star. He gave many actors their first break, and some fading actors a last hurrah. I cried when I heard of his untimely passing.

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  4. Thank you for this tribute to Carl Stohn Jr.
    I knew him well, and he and his little grey terrier were a friendly sight around the theatre. I got my equity card by appearing in Picnic, with Edd "Kookie" Byrnes in 1965. I had been an apprentice, and acted in the children theatre in many shows, starting with the Red Shoes, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Little Women, A Christmas Carol, and more. I worked with many stars - Gary Merrill, Rudy Vallee, Brandon de Wilde, Ray Milland, Ron Ely, Phyllis Diller, Carolyn Jones, Virginia Graham, June Allison, Bettie Hutton, Teresa Wright and more.
    Carl lived for many years in Wayne, a small town near Pheasant Run, owned a horse, and rode with the Dunham Woods Hunt. He brought many celebrities there to ride with him, including Tab Hunter and William Shatner.
    I also fondly remember the great Chicago actor Bill Morey, and director David Morrison.
    I appreciate the opportunity to remember this special time, and special person Carl Stohn Jr.

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