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.


  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

  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!

  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.

  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.

  5. Carl Stohn, Jr. is a Chicago legend in my mind and I, too, wish he were more of a legend in the public's eye. Kind as kind could be best described him. Even though I appeared in "Make a Million" starring Jackie Coogan and Walter Keonig at Pheasant Run as well as in several shows for the kids, I expanded my love of producing and public relations working in the Pheasant Run office under Carl's supervision. Carl constantly encouraged me and wanted me to do my best and was a wonderful teacher. Because of Carl, I've had a heck of a good time for a heck of a lot of decades doing what I love. Thanks.
    Allen Pease

  6. This is so interesting as I believe I reside in Carl’s home in Wayne, IL. I’ve heard from neighbors when I bought the home in 2006 that Carl liked to entertain and, in fact, Phyllis Diller was reported to have been seen (and heard laughing) from the house. When I read about his cherished little dog, I wonder if the existing pet door between my living room and screened-in porch was installed by Carl. It’s so great to hear all the wonderful things about him, yet sad to hear how his beautiful life ended so devastatingly. When I was a child in the 1960s, my Mom took me to my first play, at Drury Lane in Evergreen Park—The Pleasure of His Company with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. I wonder if Carl was there that same night. What a small world! - Anna Cunanan

  7. I remember Carl and Schlitz (Carl's dog). I work at Pheasant Run starting as an apprentice in 1969 and went to work for him as The sound girl right after High School 1970. My memories are so good of Carl and that theatre! So many shows and stars I had always admired. I also remember David Morrison, Katy.. Will Hass.

    One day I told Carl I wanted to go to Goodman School to study tech theatre he just picked up the phone and I was in. He attended my Wedding. I had it on a Monday night so all the gang from Pheasant Run come. I will always rent him when I use the casseroles he gave me as a wedding present, they have lasted longer than the husbands and now the kids are all grown.

    I was so surprised when I look up on the big screen in Geneva and saw Bill
    Morey up there.

    My heart was broken when I heard how Carl died and attend the service.
    Bless you for reminding me of Carl and and the only the only Thrust stage with a full curtain.
    Bonna Hill