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Circle Theatre, the local non-equity professional theater hatched in Forest Park, announced Monday it was leaving its Oak Park rented space at 1010 Madison and moving to the big city.

The group will focus on four shows per year as an itinerant troupe in various rented spaces in Chicago.

Kevin Bellie, artistic director, has moved to “emeritus status,” with Jon Landvick taking over as the new artistic director.

“This is a plan we’ve been talking about for years,” said Bellie. “We really draw from all over Chicago and even though Circle is really entrenched in Oak Park, we have pulled from all over the Chicagoland area,” said Bellie.

Youth programming will remain in Oak Park.

“We’ve spent so much time convincing Chicago that we’re 10 minutes from the city, and now we have to convince Oak Parkers that the city’s not far from Oak Park.”

Bellie “grew up with the company as a teenager” said Doug Deuchler, Wednesday Journal theater critic. But he has now become a more regional presence as a freelance director, choreographer and full time high school teacher.

Bellie described the transition as a “Kismet sort of moment.”

“Jon [Landvick] is younger and more energetic and lives in the city. He’s been with Circle for five years, but also has worked as an actor and director in Chicago before that. He’s really perfect for this role.”

Circle will start 2013 at the Greenhouse Theatre Center in Lincoln Park in January with a re-staging of “When the Rain Starts Falling,” Bellie said.

Bellie will return in April for a staging of Maury Yeston’s musical “Death Takes A Holiday” at Stage 773. The locations of two other shows, “Lovesong” by Abi Morgan and “Evil Dead: The Musical”, will be announced later.

The 27-year-old troupe was founded by Karen Skinner, Wayne Buidens, a longtime Forest Park public school teacher and Joe Bass. It started in the public schools and Park District of Forest Park, and moved to a church. After a church fire, the founders soon ran their own space at a converted department store on Madison Street.

They moved into the space left by the disbanding of Village Players in Oak Park, sharing a space with Oak Park Festival Theatre and a successor group to Village Players.

“We’re so lucky to have someone of Jon’s interest and ability stepping forward,” said Bellie.

“[Landvick] has the energy and interest. We’ve spent six months putting this plan into action.”

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...