A lot is made these days of Forest Park’s urban sophistication. It’s the centerpiece of Madison Street’s effective Urban-Suburban marketing pitch. It goes with the village’s slogan of “Big City Access. Small Town Charm.”

Forest Park is cool. It just is.

There is not a person, institution or group in Forest Park more responsible for turning this burg from the insular ethnic outpost of 25 years ago into the shopping-dining-living destination it is in 2010 than Circle Theatre.

Back in 1985, Madison Street was a weird, depressing mix of bars, antique stores and dentist offices. Outsiders weren’t likely to show up and weren’t much sought after. Forest Park might have been in decline, but it was declining on its own terms, dadgummit.

And then, organically, from absolute Forest Park roots, came Circle Theatre. It was theater in a community that completely rejected the conventions of community theater. Circle wasn’t parochial. It wasn’t boring. It did not mount the same 10 plays over and again. Circle was ambitious, fearless, wildly creative and, while planted in Forest Park, aimed straight at a broad audience of sophisticated theater fans who initially needed a map to locate this village.

Now, in its 25th year, Circle is about to be rightly recognized by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee for its astounding efforts. Circle is no stranger to winning Jeff Awards. It has 107 nominations and 45 wins to its credit. But come June 7, Circle will be honored with a rare overall award noting its powerful impact on theater in Chicago. This award is deserved and, as Forest Parkers, we ought to be proud to have this remarkable theater company in our town.

And we ought to have a clear focus on keeping Circle here. Its future in Forest Park is in doubt as, like most theater companies, it faces tenancy issues. Remember, it might have been last call for Forest Park years ago if Circle Theatre hadn’t arrived and declared Forest Park as maybe, somehow, could be, cool.