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posted: 8/1/2013 5:00 AM

'Walkabout' stages spy-themed skits around Elgin

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  • The Elgin Cultural Arts Commission's "Walkabout: Theater on Your Feet" premiered in 2010. Kelly Bolton, on ladder, and others presented "Oracle" at a store on Chicago Street.

       The Elgin Cultural Arts Commission's "Walkabout: Theater on Your Feet" premiered in 2010. Kelly Bolton, on ladder, and others presented "Oracle" at a store on Chicago Street.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • "Walkabout" theatrical productions, here in 2011, use downtown Elgin as the backdrop or set.

      "Walkabout" theatrical productions, here in 2011, use downtown Elgin as the backdrop or set.
    Courtesy of Elgin Cultural Arts Commission

  • Elaine Castro, left, and Ann Marie Nordby perform the short play "One Crisp Spring Morning" at "Walkabout: Theater on your Feet" in Elgin in 2010. Nordby is performing the piece again as part of this year's "Walkabout: Jumper, Thieves, Cops & Spies" with actress Kelly Bolton at Al's Cafe in Elgin.

      Elaine Castro, left, and Ann Marie Nordby perform the short play "One Crisp Spring Morning" at "Walkabout: Theater on your Feet" in Elgin in 2010. Nordby is performing the piece again as part of this year's "Walkabout: Jumper, Thieves, Cops & Spies" with actress Kelly Bolton at Al's Cafe in Elgin.
    Courtesy of Elgin Cultural Arts Commission

 
By Riley Simpson

@X BTO Byline attribution italic:rsimpson@dailyherald.com

A man stands on a ledge contemplating suicide.

Police officers interrogate a suspect.

An art thief discusses a prized painting she may or may not have stolen.

Mother and daughter spies realize they have been sent to kill each other.

These all make up the Janus Theater Company's production of "Walkabout: Jumpers, Thieves, Cops & Spies." The James Bond-themed series of small plays will run from Friday to Sunday, Aug. 2-4.

This sixth "Walkabout" event guides audience members through several 15-minute plays staged in restaurants and businesses in downtown Elgin. Tours start at the Elgin Public House and visit vignettes at Side Street Studio Arts, Chooch's Pizzeria and Al's Cafe.

The experience takes 70 to 85 minutes and features seating at each venue, according to artistic director Sean Hargadon.

"Walkabout" doesn't use regular stage lighting, Hargadon said, and the venue is "its own special effect."

Arlington Heights resident Ann Marie Nordby said the "Walkabout" plays differ from normal live theater productions.

"We talk about the fourth wall in theater," Nordby, 45, said. "That wall has been removed. In this instance, you don't give (audience members) a choice. They have to go along for the ride."

In last year's "Walkabout: Tales from Poe," a woman jokingly told Nordby she feared her husband's pacemaker skipped a beat.

Nordby placed her hand on the man's chest while reciting Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" in the Tower Building's narrow basement.

Nordby joins actress Kelly Bolton as the mother-daughter spy duo in "One Crisp Spring Morning." The two discuss double, triple and quadruple crosses over breakfast while in Al's Cafe.

"You really are listening in on a conversation," Nordby said.

Nordby said the space is unique because it's intimate without being claustrophobic.

Bolton, 32, said acting with the audience only inches away can be intimidating.

"I can't drop my character," she said. "(The audience members) are right there. It's a good challenge as an actor."

What helps is the bond between Nordby and Bolton.

The actresses have done stage readings of "The Santaland Diaries" for five years and even acted opposite one another in "Bad Habits" in 2002.

Since then, Nordby said, the two have become good friends.

"We can almost finish each other's sentences in an acting way," Nordby said.

Finishing each other's sentences is one thing, but the timing and body language the two share enhance the show, Bolton said.

The size and closeness of the settings make "Walkabout" special, Hargadon said, and the city of Elgin also lends a sense of practicality and history to the plays.

"You have this wonderful set for free," Hargadon said.

He said the changes in scenery from one play to the other remind him of a Hollywood studio lot because the old buildings and exposed brick interiors add allure to the event.

"In Elgin, you see these buildings and sidewalks every day and think nothing of it," Hargadon said. "In 'Walkabout,' you see them in a new way."

Pacemaker health scares aside, "Walkabout" offers an involving theater experience.

"If you're a little apprehensive about theater, check it out," Hargadon said. "It's a good event to get your feet in the water."

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