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posted: 7/27/2012 12:52 PM

Walkabout Theater returns to Elgin with eerie tales

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  • The works of Edgar Allan Poe will be featured this weekend at Elgin Walkabout: Theater on Your Feet.

      The works of Edgar Allan Poe will be featured this weekend at Elgin Walkabout: Theater on Your Feet.
    Associated Press

By Hannah Meisel

Looking to send a shiver down your spine this weekend? Local theater companies are aiming for a taste of the macabre at their fifth annual Elgin Walkabout: Theater on Your Feet.

This year, ignoring the sunny and warm summer, the theme of the weekend is the works of 19th century author Edgar Allan Poe.

Sean Hargadon, Elgin Cultural Arts Commission Chairman, said the promenade-type performance lends itself extremely well to Poe's darker pieces and can't wait to show audiences the "underground" of Elgin.

"We take you down low into the ground -- in basements and cellars that are darker metaphorically and literally," he said. "'There's a world elsewhere,' as Shakespeare might say."

Hargadon, the artistic director of Elgin-based Janus Theater Company, said the selection of pieces run the gamut of Poe's works. Janus, along with local troupes Nothing Special Productions, The Guild Theatre and Great American Artistic Consortium, will bring these classic tales to life, often with an original spin on the adaptations.

In 90-minute "tours," audience groups will be taken beneath four Elgin landmarks for four different performances. The performance will begin at the Elgin Public House in its downstairs cellar, wind its way to the basement of Ravenheart Cafe, the lobby basement of the Tower Building and end up in the upstairs parlor of Al's Cafe.

Hargadon said each of these settings add their own character to the performances, something actors and directors get quite excited over.

"It's down-and-dirty theater," he said. "It's like, 'give me a space and I'll create something out of that space.' It's not about making that space into a theater. Until you're in there, you don't know what you have, so it redefines expectations."

The cast and crew of the short plays did not rehearse in the space until recently; Hargadon described seeing a dress rehearsal performance Monday for the first time as "thrilling."

The theater companies will perform all weekend, beginning with Elgin Walkabout's first "Theater After Dark" on Friday evening. Poe's "The Bells," "For Annie," "The Telltale Heart" and "Fall of the House of Usher" will be presented in vintage period costume with home-remedied light techniques.

Day performances Saturday and Sunday will begin at 2 p.m., with tours leaving every 15 minutes until 3 p.m. Night performances Friday and Saturday will begin at 7 p.m., with a similar 15-minute interval until 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 cash at the door, but must be reserved ahead of time via or calling (847) 841-1713.

Though Hargadon said the venue will add a unique texture to the performances, he said Friday night is when the true magic will begin -- when the audience joins in on the fun.

"It's not complete until the audience starts going through it," he said. "When the audience shows up -- they're the ones who add the final touch."

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