Arts preview: Actors' Theatre marks 35th year of outdoor theater

Jim Fischer
Christopher C. Austin III as Othello, Lindsey Fisher as Desdemona and Matthew Michael Moore as Iago in Actors' Theatre's production of "Othello."

Since 1982, Actors' Theatre has been a Schiller Park fixture - which is not to say the classical theater troupe has been stationary.

Theater outdoors in a public space almost can't not bedynamic, and Actors' Theatre is getting ready for its 35thseason (one that will include its 100th production) with that expectation in mind.

"Actors' Theatre started something special in 1982," Artistic Director Philip J. Hickman said. "There's something magic about performing in a public space that brings the community together."

Bringing the community together via live theater works based on the company's model of breaking down barriers - physical, by offering open-air performances; economic, by presenting them free of charge; and cultural, by fostering a familial, casual environment. These can lead to some magical moments, such as the time during a production of "Richard III" in which the line "Thatdogsbark at me as I halt by them" was followed by actual dogs barking, right on cue. Or when a young patron called out, from close proximity to the stage and during a pregnant pause following a contentious scene in "Treasure Island," "Kill him!"

"Shakespeare wasn't writing for elite audiences, or audiences of privilege, but he was writing to the people," Hickman said.

This 35th season is themed "To Tell the Truth," and presents four pieces of classic theater in which the nature of trust in relationships is examined. "Othello" opens the season beginning May 26, and the Bard's less-familiar "The Winter's Tale" (an adaptation set in Appalachia and featuring traditional music of the region) takes the stage in July. The season also includes "The Countess of Monte Cristo," a world premiere adaptation of the Alexandre Dumas classic, and Oscar Wilde's "An Ideal Husband."

The new season also marks the first full year since the 2015 passing of longtime Artist Director John S. Kuhn.

"He had a vision and love for Actors' Theatre and the role it plays in the community, and that vision was contagious," Hickman said.

Schiller Park

Amphitheatre Stage

8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays,

May 26-June 19

1069 Jaeger St.,

German Village