Alishiana Uyao Sol Fuller as Isabella and Avery Fountain as Duke rehearsing the Shakespeare play, ‘Measure for Measure’ at The Grove.

The Forest Park Theatre is continuing its mission of bringing professional productions to the community by presenting Measure for Measure at The Grove at Altenheim. Shakespeare wrote the play during a time of political strife, which makes the play relevant to modern audiences. As Director Rick Corley said, the play’s provocative themes are, “Wrapped in the most incredible poetry in the English language.”

When Corley moved to Forest Park, he fell in love with the community but wondered why it had no theater. That is why he founded one and drew on his experience as a professor of Advanced Acting – Shakespeare at UIC. The theater’s first production was As You Like It at the Roos Recreation Center property.

Mayor Rory Hoskins attended two performances and suggested the theater relocate its productions to the village owned Altenheim property. Corley found Altenheim to be much quieter and put on a production of Innogen in 2022. The play was a success, even without sets. The village council also became the theatre’s lead sponsor with a grant of $10,000.

“Arts are a gift to the community,” Corley said, “And the community responds with support.” This year’s production is a community effort in every respect. To help raise the necessary $25,000 to pay the actors and stage the play, the theater held a fundraiser at Piacere Mio restaurant that netted $4,500. They also received donations from local businesses.

Kevin Hibbets and his crew donated their time to assemble the sets. J.C. Licht donated $500 of paint to decorate them. The stands for the audience were provided by the Park District. Twisted Cookie and Brown Cow will be selling refreshments and Exit Strategy is providing picnic packages for patrons to purchase.

Kevin Leonard, who operates Leonard Creativeworks in Forest Park, produced the striking images of the lead actors. Christine Westphal Barnard, a member of the Forest Park Arts Alliance, plastered the posters Leonard produced all over town. She also helped distribute cards that contained the play’s synopsis. “Debauchery. Romance. Hypocrisy.” is the title of this summary.

“I love Measure for Measure,” said Corley, “It’s about a city out of control and the difference between justice and the law.” There is also a ‘Me-Too’ theme with a powerful man coercing a young nun into sacrificing her virginity.”

Corley recruited Chicago actors for the production, including some of his current and former students.

Measure for Measure will give many of these students their first opportunity to perform in a professional production. The cast was given their scripts to study in June and rehearsals began after the 4th of July.

The company rehearsed at Altenheim to get acclimated to performing outdoors, with the noise and heat. Performances will be Aug. 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13 at 5 p.m. Admission is free, in keeping with a worldwide tradition of presenting free Shakespeare during the summer. “Before every performance, we welcome donations from the audience. We also list donors on the program.”

While keeping theater alive in Forest Park, Corley dreams of someday finding a permanent home and becoming a theater for the entire region.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.