...six young men dreamed of bringing a new type of entertainment to people hungry for contact with real heroes. Searching for a way to recreate in live performance the bygone days of the medieval festival, the swashbuckling antics of the Musketeers, and the rugged, self-reliant days of the old West, the young thespians turned to those who had come before.
They looked back into the past and found the Hanlon Brothers, a family of performers who had traveled the world at the dawn of the twentieth century. These early vaudevillians had thrilled audiences everywhere with their daring stunts. Elaborate, multilevel stage sets combined with acrobatics, comedy, juggling and death-defying feats kept patrons on the edges of their seats. Stagecoaches and wagons were overturned, crashing noisily to the stage while their drivers leaped and rolled from the wreckage, to the wild cheers of the awestruck audience. While on tour in England, the Hanlon Brothers made the acquaintance of "Professor" John Lees, a superb juggler and acrobat in his own right, and established a partnership under the banner "The Hanlon-Lees Troupe."
In honor of these innovative and daring showmen, the new troupe was dubbed "The Hanlon-Lees Action Theater." Medieval jousting was the first endeavor attempted and later perfected by the fledgling group. Drawing on what little original source material was available, a painstaking process of training for both men and horses was developed. Plenty of hard work and endurance through those early years paid off, and soon the group was known as the foremost troupe of theatrical jousters in the United States. Audiences at Renaissance faires from coast to coast, north and south returned every year to cheer, boo and revel in the excitement.
The early 1990s saw new and exciting additions to the ever-changing H-LAT repertoire. Cowboy and Western entertainments were created for corporate events. In the summer of 1997, the Lees co-produced their own full-scale Wild West show in the outskirts of Chicago, featuring trick riding, runaway stagecoaches, highfalls, explosions and street brawls, all under the watchful eyes of such legendary and colorful characters as Buffalo Bill, Chief Sitting Bull and Calamity Jane. As in the past, research and attention to detail were the keys to success.
With a solid base in horsemanship, weapons training and stunt work, many members of the troupe have gone on to roles in film and television. As the company evolves and new performers are trained, more and more modern "era" projects are produced. A separate stunt show, as well as original theatrical works are offered for special events and educational purposes. Many programs are available for school children interested in all facets of history. Lecture demonstrations bring history to life in an atmosphere not possible through rote studying. When children can touch and experience the reality of life in another time, the educational experience takes on a much deeper dimension.
Now, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, the Hanlon-Lees have entered the digital realm in order to bring to you their unique style of theatrical re-enactment and performance. Whatever your event, from corporate functions to school demonstrations, from Renaissance faires to cowboys and Indians, the Hanlon-Lees Action Theater is your ticket to adventure!