Theater company takes show to the streets

Redmoon Theater is reaching out to schools and neighborhood residents as it launches a five-year partnership with the Chicago Park District, unveiling the whimsical "Spectacle '06: Twilight Orchard," in Columbus Park.

The production is set in a 17th-century palace, complete with actors and actresses who wander through and explore an indoor and outdoor landscape. But instead of a single structure, the set is composed of 21 movable walls erected throughout the park. Twelve installation sites made of items donated by Redmoon patrons provide additional scenery.

Spectacle viewers may think they are in a bedroom and end up in a library, since sets disappear and reappear during the three-hour show. Actors crawl from within a set made entirely of chairs; they then lift the seats to emerge, revealing caterpillars and butterflies.

"By intruding ourselves as a very artificial force into this beautiful and natural environment, it announces Jens Jensen's accomplishment of bringing out the natural environment's beauty," said Redmoon Artistic Director Jim Lasko, referring to the park's landscape architect.

Art Richardson, Chicago Park District central region manager, is equally excited about the partnership.

"We hope to ignite a love of theater for those who live in the Austin community," Richardson said. "We're hoping to offer opportunities to our kids beyond basketball and football, and bring the love of the arts back to the Westside."

Redmoon's directors plan to use the production as one step toward achieving neighborhood unity.

According to Brad Cummings, 30-year Austin resident, there has been long-time economic and racial tension between Austin and Oak Park, dating back to the founding of the two communities.

Lasko has this friction in mind.

"We're here in part to say that we understood there to be conflict between Austin and Oak Park," Lasko said. "We're hoping to make an event that will be peaceable and open to all, and it could be an opportunity for people to come together as a single community?and not as warring faction."

In addition to unifying neighborhoods, Redmoon has worked to get surrounding schools and organizations involved in the three-year-old Spectacle. Students from Oak Park and River Forest High School, North Park Elementary and others have decorated hundreds of birds nests that will be hung in the park for this year's event, with pictures of historical figures nestled within. The theater also conducted several volunteer days, when residents made objects for the Spectacle.

Neighborhood Arts Program Director Robert Hines said, "Redmoon is committed to not only transforming the park but is also committed to touching the lives of those who live, work and play in this world-class city."

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When: Oct. 3 through Oct. 9 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Where: Columbus Park, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd.

$$$$: $10, residents of nearby neighborhoods and children under 12 are free. Tickets can be purchased by calling 312.850.8440 ext. 111 or by visiting www.redmoon.org.

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