Mission and History


Exploding complex questions with precision and play, Lightning Rod Special makes live performance from the ground up.


Lightning Rod Special is a raucous and contemplative physical theatre company based in Philadelphia. Our work engages a highly collaborative, actor-driven approach. With artistic roots in the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training, Headlong Performance Institute, Double Edge Theatre, The Atlantic Theater Company, and long-form improvisation, LRS creations are a finely orchestrated extension of the raw and thunderous discoveries born from spontaneous inspiration.

Like scientists, we begin each project with a hypothesis. Following artistic investigations, we find our way to completed works of theatre that are varied in their form, style, and content. In this way, creating original work is a process we utilize to ask questions of ourselves, our audience, and the world at large.

LRS projects include: Hackles (‘12 Philadelphia Fringe) a teenager’s journey to the underworld and back, Go Long Big Softie (‘13 Philadelphia Fringe) a wild look at the mythopoetic men’s movement, Seeing the Beast (‘14 Colgate University) a fairytale play about deer overpopulation made with Colgate University students, Underground Railroad Game (‘13 New Orleans Fringe, ‘15 FringeArts, ‘16 Ars Nova Theater) a time traveling fever dream about American race relations, Let the Dog See the Rabbit (‘15 The Rotunda Sanctuary) a performance looking at looking at animals, and Sans Everything (‘15 Faux/Real Festival, ‘16 AS220, ‘16 Charlestown Working Theater) an investigation of the consequences of a future world without stories, in collaboration with Strange Attractor Theatre Company.

We’ve taught original performance creation workshops at New York University, Swarthmore College, The Philadelphia School, Arthur P. Schalick High School, Haverford College, Roger Williams University, Colgate University, University of Pennsylvania, and Radford University. LRS has had its work supported by residencies and grants from Wyncote Foundation, Network of Ensemble Theaters, White Pines Productions, North American Cultural Lab, FringeArts, and the Tuttleman Family Foundation. The company co-directors have received numerous awards and recognitions for their work as individual artists including a Fox Foundation Fellowship, FringeArts Fellowship, Headlong Teaching Fellowship, BRAT Artist Residency, Jumpstart Artist Awards, and Independence Foundation Fellowship.

In this last year we mounted our largest project ever, Let the Dog See the Rabbit, with an ensemble of 13 Philadelphia-based professional performing artists. For this project we were proud to pay each of our collaborating artists more than we ever have before thanks to a generous grant from Wyncote Foundation, a wildly successful fundraiser cabaret, and our largest crowdsourced funding campaign yet. The piece was performed for 500 people over the length of its 9 show run, with 20% of the audience new to Lightning Rod Special’s work. We added a special matinee and talk-back performance for students of a New Jersey high school, where LRS hosted a weeklong residency in original performance creation.

As part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in September of 2015, LRS Co-Directors Scott and Jenn premiered Underground Railroad Game, one of only two pieces in the curated Fringe by Philadelphia-based artists. The entire run of 10 performances sold out and over 1,200 people attended. The piece received rave, five-star reviews from a variety of outlets, including Newsworks, City Paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and DC Metro Arts. As a result of overwhelming sales and demand, FringeArts is set to remount URG in May of 2016. In 2014, an in-progress version of URG was featured as part of Ars Nova’s All New Talent festival, and we are proud that the completed version will open Ars Nova’s 2016 season with a fully produced five-week run. The success of URG is a testament to an extended development process that allowed the artistic team to plumb the depths of complex questions around race and American education.

Lightning Rod Special is Philadelphia-based theatre artists Katie Gould, Jennifer Kidwell, Mason Rosenthal, Scott Sheppard, and Alice Yorke.