Rough House connects individuals and communities through art that celebrates the weird things that make us unique, and the weirder things that bring us together. 

We create theater that captures the heart through the eye. Our shows use puppetry, music, and human performance to tell stories that are intimate, strange, and sincere.

Rough House has headlined the National Puppetry Festival, the international Physical Festival Chicago, and Open Eye Figure Theater’s Toy Theater After Dark Festival. The company has been a proud contributor to such Chicago institutions as Brain Frame and the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, of which it is a curatorial producing partner.  Rough House has toured across the United States, performing in auditoriums, lotion factories, funeral homes, basements, bars, galleries, punk houses and even the woods of Appalachia.



kay bio

Kay Kron (Company Member) is an actor and poet hailing from Colorado. Chicago credits include The Hammer Trinity, (The House Theatre of Chicago);Peter Pan (Lookingglass Theatre); A Snowy Day with Beatrix Potter (Chicago Children’s Theatre); Hot Georgia Sunday (Haven Theatre, directed by Marti Lyons); Into the Uncanny Valley and Sad Songs for Bad People (Rough House); Or, (Caffeine Theatre, Theater on the Lake); and several Redmoon spectacle events. As a writer, she co-authored and devised Constance and the Perpetual Motion Machine (Rough House), Dis-ReplacementWinter Pageant 2013Dia De Los Muertos Sinfonietta (at the CSO), and Devil’s Cabaret(Redmoon). She holds a BFA in Acting from DePaul University where she is once again enrolled in pursuit of her Masters in Nonprofit Management.


http://bravelux.comMike Oleon (Founding Artistic Director) is a puppeteer, director and designer from California. He studied musical theater at UCLA. He co-founded Rough House, and co-curates the Nasty Brutish & Short: A Puppet Cabaret at Links Hall for which he curated a whole lot of puppetry for the inaugural Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. He has worked with Redmoon, Blair Thomas & Company, and the guy who plays Snuffleupagus. See his stuff at



Claire-ThumbnailClaire Saxe (Managing Artistic Director) used to live in a little house on an English hillside with a peacock named Tad. More recently, she’s been spending her time in theaters and classrooms in and around Chicago. Prior to the tour of Sad Songs, Claire appeared as Lydia in the U.S. premier of Martyr (Steep Theater). Previous Chicago credits include Sylvia in Who Rowed Across Oceans (Lost Compass, Edinburgh Fringe Festival), Amy in The Cookie Play (Broken Nose’s “Bechdel Fest”), Imogen in the world premier of Ephebophilia (The Phebe Project), Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank (Steppenwolf, 2007 Jeff Nominee), Nora in Constance and the Perpetual Motion Machine, and Puppytron in Into the Uncanny Valley (Rough House). In 2012, Claire received her MA in Directing and Actor Training from the University of Exeter, UK. When she’s not teaching, making theatre or oggling puppets…never mind. She’s pretty much always doing one of those three things.


Artistic Associates

10422370_690296694393505_772895401624845228_nGrace Needlman is a collaborative artist, educator, and curator.  Her mask and puppet designs have appeared in Chicago productions at Chicago Children’s Theatre, First Floor Theater, the Actor’s Gymnasium, and Redmoon.  She has exhibited across the US, UK, Finland, and India. As a teaching artist, Grace asks questions and designs experiences that explore art in society, participation and invitation, and the museum. She is an artist guide and the co-lead artist of the Teen Creative Agency (TCA) at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Grace graduated with a MA in Contemporary Art Theory from Goldsmiths, and a BA in fine art from Yale.


Maddy Low is performer, puppeteer, teaching artist, and costume craftsperson native to Chicagoland. Past Rough House credits include Sad Songs for Bad People (Debbie), Cicada Summer (workshop), and Ubu the King (costume designer). Her object performance work has been seen around the city at Salonathon, Mixtape, Nasty, Brutish and Short, many bars, and even some theaters.  She is pleased as punch to a Rough House artistic associate and co-curator of Nasty, Brutish and Short!



Administrative Assistant

FletcherFletcher Pierson is a storymaker living in Chicago, IL, just getting started with puppetry. He has recently worked as the assistant director for Rough House’s critically acclaimed Ubu the King and Beyond this Point’s ?corporel, and is Rough House’s apprentice. Fletcher has trained with Rough House, Walkabout, The Artistic Home, and Tara Branham. His current inspiration and creative goals stem from beast myths, ghost stories, and the human need to journey. Fletcher’s upcoming projects include the workshopping of a living-room based puppet show and research for a site-unspecific puppet tour.

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