It’s only a matter of days before the curtain closes at Circle Theatre’s location in Forest Park, and members of the award-winning company seem more than ready to say goodbye. Goodbye to the leaking ceilings. Goodbye to the unisex bathrooms. Goodbye to the techno music booming from the apartment upstairs.
After more than 20 years at the time-worn building at 7300 W. Madison St., Circle will perform its last show, The Philadelphia Story, in Forest Park on Sept. 5 before moving to its new space, temporary space, at 1010 W. Madison St. in Oak Park.
Though some people hate to see the acclaimed theater leave the village, Artistic Director Kevin Bellie – also a Forest Parker – thinks the group’s address change is not that big of a deal. It’s only a difference of two and a half blocks, he said.
“It’s not where we’re located so much; it’s what we produce,” said Bellie, who has been a member of the company for 23 years. Theater goers, he added, “don’t think of the border as an electric fence. You just pass Harlem, and you’re here.”
The new spot, Bellie said, will also offer much more space, better lighting, more comfortable seating and improved bathrooms. Circle has signed a short-term lease for the main stage area of the former Village Players Theatre in Oak Park.
“It really is a major upgrade for our audience,” he said. “We know our art is high quality, and now we have the space to match it.”
As a result, most of the crew is filled with excitement rather than sadness during the final transition to Oak Park this month.
Musical director Carolyn Brady Riley said that when she recently stopped by the theater’s former home in Forest Park, “there was not a bit of nostalgia whatsoever.”
“Here, there’s a lot more flexibility” and room for the musicians, she said of 1010 W. Madison. “And there’s no threat of water dropping onto the instruments.”
Leaking water was often a problem at the old building. According to a few of the actors, there was one show a couple years ago in which a “waterfall” started gushing onto the stage in the middle of a large dance scene. Last winter, one performance was even cancelled because of water falling through the ceiling onto the audience.
“You just never knew when it was going to rain inside,” said Eric Lindahl, a 30-year-old actor with the company.
“People were so frustrated” with the conditions of the building, “that it made it easier” to move, said Bob Knuth, producing director and Forest Park resident. “If we didn’t have those issues, we wouldn’t want to leave. We love Forest Park.”
There is a chance Circle could return to Forest Park after its 14-month lease at 1010 W. Madison expires. Bellie said the theater is looking for a permanent home in the area, but he would not disclose any of the specific locations they are considering.
In the meantime, the company is focused on sprucing up the Oak Park spot in time for opening night of The Wedding Singer on Sept. 22.
“We’ll all take a big sigh of relief on that day because we finally made it,” Bellie said.