Assuming Circle Theatre receives some $200,000 in grants from the Village of Oak Park, the performance troupe’s current landlord said he may allow the organization to vacate the

Madison Street
property prior to the expiration of a lease agreement in 2010.

Art Sundry, owner of the Hain building that houses the theater at

7300 Madison St.
, reached this decision after receiving a written request from his tenant last month to terminate their lease. Circle Theatre’s board of directors asked to be freed of its financial obligations to Sundry by Halloween of 2008. Offering a different timeline, Sundry said he is willing to consider Oct. 31, 2009, as the early release date.

“That was fine with us,” Rula Gardenier, the theater’s managing director said. “We think that’s just fine. It’s not a bad deal.”

Though Sundry emphasized he has not yet agreed to rip up the lease agreement, Gardenier spoke confidently that Circle Theatre’s future will be in Oak Park. If all goes well, she said, the organization could stage its first performance there by December. And despite perennial laments regarding its limited budget, the theater may actually benefit from holding overlapping lease agreements, said Gardenier. The physical process of relocating would be less stressful and the group could use both stages for simultaneous productions.

“The bottom line is we are relocating,” Gardenier said. “The last day of our lease in Forest Park is Oct. 31 of 2009.”

The Hain building has been home to Circle Theatre for roughly 18 years, and also houses a video store and 22 residential apartments. Sundry purchased the property for $1.5 million late last year from Greg Paulus.

Before the Oak Park village board releases any grant-funding to the theater, the municipality first wants to see a lease between that organization and Chris Kleronomos. Kleronomos owns the warehouse at 217 Harrison St. in which Circle Theatre would relocate.

“[The grants] will coincide with Circle and the property owner agreeing on a lease, so we’re working on all of the arrangements so we’re ready to put it in front of the board as soon as it’s finalized,” Loretta Daly, Oak Park’s business services manager said.

The grants are expected to help the theater pay for renovations and possibly some operating costs. According to Daly, the money is not to be used to pay rent in Forest Park, should the theater be responsible for simultaneous lease agreements. Daly said she expects the village board to sign off on the funding within a few months.


Wednesday Journal reporter Marty Stempniak contributed to this report.