Circle Theatre leaving Oak Park

Non-equity troupe takes to itinerant schedule in Chicago

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By Jean Lotus

Forest Park Review Editor

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."

Reader Comments

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Posted: December 8th, 2012 12:22 AM

One more vacant building on Madison in Oak Park! High taxes are to blame. Who dropped the ball and let Forest Park dominiate business. I guess another beauty supply store might move in.

Mike from Oak Park  

Posted: November 22nd, 2012 8:12 AM

Ouch! Well, they had a decent run...serving a community and creating a following 25 years+ I the making. Why on earth would they throw this away? Make no doubt about it -- they are throwing it away...I guess the commute will be easier for the new AD...

Barbara from Forest Park   

Posted: November 21st, 2012 6:20 AM

We have been very lucky to have Circle Theatre in FP and OP for so many years. Their dramas were sometimes provocative but always entertaining. Their musicals were spectacular. Best wishes to Kevin thanks to everyone at Circle.

Parker from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2012 5:26 PM

Kevin Bellie is a real trooper, a fellow with stage dust in his veins. We'll miss his dedication to mounting solid productions with wonderful actors.

Roger from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2012 4:40 PM

PTG.... relevance??

Property Tax Man  

Posted: November 20th, 2012 2:24 PM

Wake up, Property Taxes are driving everybody out. Tax rates DO matter. Forest Park prospers, and OP pretends the laws of economics just don't exist. It doesn't work in your Village and won't work nationally either. Your saddling your children people

Circle Fan  

Posted: November 20th, 2012 2:08 PM

I thank them and wish them well. But yes, I must admit my loyalty over the years was based on them being a high quality, very local option. Given the competition, I'm afraid I can't promise them the same loyalty.

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2012 1:55 PM

Very disappointing. I was looking forward to auditioning to Circle shows as I'm able to do theatre again for the first time in six years.


Posted: November 20th, 2012 1:52 PM

I've enjoyed going to Circle for years, but if I go into the city for theater, I go to the Goodman, Steppenwolf, etc.


Posted: November 20th, 2012 1:51 PM

Moving from a permanent, centrally located building with plenty of parking in the area and no competition to become an itinerant company in a city with a ton of competition seems like a mistake.

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