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By Dan Haley
The managing director and president of the board of the Madison Street Theatre – the old Village Players on Madison Street -- stopped by the Journal Thursday morning to trumpet their path forward now that Circle Theatre, their main tenant the past year or two, has decamped for a nomadic life producing shows at various venues in the city.
Rosemary Foley and Tom Wendorf were clear that the relationship with Circle was a positive one for both entities as they each worked through some trauma. Circle had lost its longtime home in Forest Park and Madison Street Theater was trying to reimagine itself after a financial crisis hit Village Players.
Now though, Foley said a range of good things are underway that will keep the storefront theatre and its two performance spaces hopping. The expanding theater program at Concordia University will produce four shows a year at Madison Street under the direction of Jason Narvy, the River Forest school's new artistic director. One show will be a new work by a Chicago playwright and the other three will be "reimagined classics" starting with "Cabaret."
Madison Street Theater will also be co-producing shows throughout the year with a range of outside groups including Ovation, which is run by Tina Reynolds who also leads the BRAVO theater program at Brooks Middle School in Oak Park. Another producing partner is Kevin Bry who is planning an annual Oak Park history centric show.
The theater will also continue to rent space to independent theater companies including the Oak Park Festival Theater during the months it comes inside from the stars at Austin Garden.
And, says Foley, her theater expects to announce shortly that it has chosen a new resident theater company that will take up quarters on Madison Street year round. Foley said the new group will produce four or five shows each year. She said that notable theater companies are eager to find an affordable venue such as the Madison Street Theater to call home.
Wendorf said that after the village election in April that his board will again push Oak Park's village government to consider funding a needed infrastructure upgrade of the theater. The group has previously sought a slice of funding from the Madison Street TIF district arguing that the theater when it is percolating is an economic driver to restaurants and other local businesses.