The Stag with Silver Antlers

If you’ve been reading carefully, you’ve seen references in some of my older writing to The Stag with Silver Antlers. What is this?

Way back in high school, I started thinking about designing a dark ride. I didn’t really know what this meant yet, but I began blindly making plans. Taking a tip from Disney, I flipped through my copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and landed on “The Fisherman and His Wife.” (It’s very short; you might want to read it before continuing.) I took this story about a talking fish and turned it into The Flounder, and I was going to rent space in a nearby mostly-empty shopping center to stage it. I made a website. And the story ends there.

Many years later, right after Halloween 2012, I was walking up Madison Avenue looking at the window displays. I told you this is something I do a lot, right? Zitomer’s reminded me of Pirates of the Caribbean; I took this Instagram. Somehow, all of this brought me back to The Flounder, and I started rolling it around in my head again. Between Zitomer and home (which was the UES at the time), I had turned the fish into a deer and started planning The Stag with Silver Antlers. I bought that night.

In the days that followed, I wrote, I sketched, I recorded voices. This would be a walkthrough attraction, inspired by the show inside Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland that I had recently experienced for the first time. I kept good pace for a few weeks, and then it fell by the wayside. The next time I picked up the project, it turned into a live-action, Sleep No More-style production. Then it became a simple play. I started writing an all-new script focused on the emotional connection between the characters. I liked where it was headed a lot, but it was too sophisticated a project to tackle with no real experience in theatre, so I started writing some smaller plays to practice directing. I made another website.

As you might guess, I haven’t finished any of these things yet. So how do I know that the haunted house will be different?

I…don’t. Not yet. One strategy to keep myself honest is to maintain this update schedule, where I have to write about something every week until Halloween, so I might as well be working on the show.

One trick I’ve learned from working on a large technology team is: when in doubt, cut scope. I think that’s the other secret. The haunted house has no actors, no script, no story. It’s mechanically challenging, but that’s more of a bonus than a requirement. If I can’t get these figures dancing, then they’ll be static. I just have to launch, and I know that once I’ve started shipping these things, I won’t be able to stop.

We can talk more about Silver Antlers and Variable Stage in the future. I haven’t given up on any of the unfinished projects in this update; if you have questions about the other things I’ve tried to do, you know how to get in touch. For now, let’s get back to Halloween.

I’ve made some tangible progress on the skeleton jugglers and started plotting out how I might make the figures in another tableau jump rope. Next Wednesday, you’ll have 12 sketches and a floor plan. That’s a promise!