First reported 7/23/2010 7:03 p.m.

Circle Theatre is moving, temporarily, from Forest Park to Oak Park, in performance space owned by Village Players, the two theater companies announced Friday evening.

The short-term move – confirmed with the signing of a 14-month lease for 1010 Madison – is a win-win for both groups, says Kevin Bellie, Circle’s artistic director. Bellie said the agreement allows Circle, whose lease in Forest Park ends Oct. 31, the space to perform while the company continues to search for a permanent home.

The agreement satisfies an immediate need, too, for Village Players, the Oak Park theater company that canceled its last show of the spring season and reorganized last month to promote the performance space it owns as a rental venue.

“This works wonderfully for us,” said Rosemary Foley, president of the board at what is now known as the Oak Park-River Forest Performing Arts Center. “Circle wanted to get in to put up The Wedding Singer in September. We wanted the income to come in so we can pay our mortgage.”

Foley said the agreement will bring in just enough money to allow Village Players to pay its mortgage, utilities and insurance on the building. Bellie said the rent is comparable to what Circle has been paying in Forest Park, where the building’s owner has said he will rehab the space and substantially increase the rent.

Neither Circle, which is 25 years old, nor Village Players, about to celebrate its 50th anniversary, is ruling out a longer-term agreement. But, Bellie says, Circle remains focused on finding a permanent home.

“Our ultimate goal is to have our own space that we build from the ground up,” Bellie said. “We have a strong plan that we have in mind and an idea of where that space would be, but it’s too early to talk about it.”

Though Bellie, who lives in Forest Park, would not give specifics, he did say, “We are considering the entire tri-village area of Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park. We are very happy in the area and appreciate all the support we receive from all three communities.”

The details, the inspectors

Foley has been president of the board of Village Players for just weeks. She’s been on the Oak Park theater group’s board for only four months. Bellie, on the other hand, grew up with Circle. He started out in the Forest Park group’s children’s theater program. He well knows the group’s notably time-worn space on Madison Street in Forest Park.

So when their two boards began talking seriously about joining their fates in a lease, both Foley and Bellie decided it was a good time to call in building and fire inspectors.

“The building and the fire inspectors came through at our request,” said Foley. “It is important to the new board that we be clear about the condition of our building.” She said inspectors found “several things that were not in direct violation” of code but which will lead to small upgrades of the theater space. Those items will be repaired by Circle, she said.

In fact, it was sorting through the building-related issues that, for several days last week, held up the signing of a lease.

What’s next?

As her company works to regroup, said Foley, it can only help Village Players to expose Circle’s many regulars to the space in Oak Park. “Circle’s patrons come from far afield. We’re thrilled they will see our theater,” Foley said.

Meanwhile, Circle will say its goodbyes to its Forest Park home with the final weeks of its well-reviewed The Philadelphia Story through Sept. 5. The summer children’s production of Ragtime will also be staged in Forest Park. The Wedding Singer, a musical version of the Adam Sandler movie of the same name, will debut in the Oak Park space on Sept. 17, according to Bellie.

Circle’s lease at Village Players includes only the main stage, said Foley. That leaves the smaller performance space for other uses, she said. On Aug. 25, the Stone Bridge Theater Company, an affiliate of Open Door Repertory, will debut Compulsion in the studio theater.

A local Atticus

Foley, for her part, credited William Sullivan, a local attorney, for his starring role in making the agreement happen.

“He is not on our board. He was recommended to us. And he donated so many hours helping us through all this sticky stuff on the lease. He is a good, moral man. He reminded me of Atticus,” she said, referring, in another 50th anniversary connection, to Atticus Finch, the lead character in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...