It has begun. The Daily Herald ran a story last Friday by Contributing Theatre Critic, Jack Helbig. (And much to my surprise and excitement, they also ran stories on Sunday and Tuesday. That is a very rare thing in the newspaper business, but appreciated from all of us here at Walkabout.)
Helbig is all about fringe theater. Historically, he's been a proponent of what theatre director Peter Brook likes to call the "Rough Theatre." This is the type that is "down to earth and direct."
As Hebig said to me in our phone interview, "I like theatre that has a little chaos in it." And I'm sure Helbig likes to take a leisurely walk. In any case, he had some nice things to say about Walkabout: Theater on your Feet.
Elgin Walkabout Showcases Local Theater
By Jack Helbig Daily Herald Contributing Theatre Critic
August 6, 2008
Downtown Elgin hosts a mini-theater festival of sorts, "Walkabout," Aug 16, 23 and 30. Five theaters will participate in the event in which participants walk around downtown Elgin, and step in to see short performances by participating theaters.
The Walkabout was the brainchild of Sean Hargadon, a member of the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission. There are a lot of independent businesses in downtown Elgin," Hargadon says. "This was a way to showcase both local theaters and local businesses."
Hargadon has an interest in showcasing both. He is not only a commission member, he is also a founding member of the Janus Theatre Company, one of the more successful and long-lived theaters in the western suburbs. Janus was founded in 1999 and has performed in various spaces across the suburbs(from Arlington Heights to Elgin) and Chicago.
Hargadon got the inspiration for the Walkabout during a trip several years ago to Europe. "My wife and I went to Paris in 2005," Hargadon says. "We were there during a street music festival. There were bands playing on all the sidewalks. And you could hear any kind of music you wanted. One group was playing jazz. Someone was playing the accordion. One group was playing "Rage Against the Machine." "It was very cool," Hargadon says, "and I thought, wouldn't something like this be great in Elgin."
Hargadon pitched the festival to the Elgin commission. "Originally I was going to pitch the idea of an Elgin fringe theater festival," Hargadon says, "but that was too much to bite off at this point." So he scaled it back to five theaters, each performing a short play in a venue in downtown Elgin.
Hargadon sent out invitations to all of the theaters he could think of, asking for proposals for shows. He ended up with a cross section of suburban Chicago's smaller, scrappier theaters: Janus Theatre Company, Vex Theatre Company, Nothing Special Productions, the Independent Players. Each theater has been given a performance space and a spot on an ongoing tour of downtown Elgin.
The Walkabout begins at the Professional Building at 164 Division St. Tour guides will lead patrons to spaces where different local theaters are performing. "We have a show in a pub. We have a show in a cafe," Hargadon says. "We have a show in a store. We have a show in a bookstore."
"The Walkabout will then end at the Alley of Art," Hargadon says, "at DuPage Court next to Al's Cafe where we will have art and live music. The Walkabout runs Saturdays Aug. 16, 23 and 30 starting at 1 p.m. with tours every 15 minutes until 2 p.m. The starting location is the Professional Building, 164 Division St. Elgin. Reservations are essential: (847) 841-1713.