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Theatre-Hikes trek outdoor venues

Theatre-Hikes portrays wedding FerdinMirand“The Tempest.” At Theatre-Hikes productions audience members bring chairs or blankets sit are guided site each scene.

Theatre-Hikes portrays the wedding of Ferdinand and Miranda in “The Tempest.” At Theatre-Hikes productions, audience members bring chairs or blankets to sit on, and are guided to the site of each scene. Performances last about two hours. | Photo provided

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Updated: October 29, 2012 6:25AM



The great outdoors offers beautiful backdrops for a fall hike. As nice as that is, Theatre-Hikes can add to that experience.

Since 2001 Theatre-Hikes has been using the beautiful Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Ill., and other interesting venues throughout the Chicago area as sets for a wide range of family-friendly theatrical performances.

“We want to instill love of the outdoors, and combine it with a little exercise and an afternoon of entertainment for all ages. We say that we do very ‘punny theater,’ and ‘plays that move you’,” said Bradley Baker, artistic director of Theatre-Hikes.

At a Theatre-Hikes production, audience members bring chairs or blankets to sit on, and are guided by a hike leader to the site of each scene. Baker said that the hike at most performances is about two miles. The exceptions are performances on the first Sunday monthly at the arboretum, which are “low impact” hikes covering a very short distance, designed for those with wheelchairs, walkers or strollers, and in inclement weather when performances can be moved indoors.

“When you hike, you carry only the bare necessities. That’s what we do with our productions. We look closely at the scripts and, in terms of props, pare down to only what’s needed to tell the story. We have beautiful and unique settings, and each new space we move to has its own feel that contributes to that scene. And we invest in costumes. We have had fabulous designers who have come up with great costumes that portray the time and the setting,” explained Baker.

Productions of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and the play “The Werewolf’s Curse or Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” will wrap up Theatre-Hikes 2012 season.

“For our current production, ‘The Tempest,’ we’ve heard from parents that they were pleasantly surprised at how engaged their kids were with a Shakespeare play, and we’ve also gotten compliments from Shakespeare-lovers of how true to the spirit of Shakespeare our production was. It’s quite a compliment to hear those comments from two very different types of audiences.”

There are two more performances of “The Tempest” at the Morton Arboretum, at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, and Sunday, Sept. 30. “The Werewolf’s Curse or Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow” will run in October at 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, and Monday, Oct. 8.

“It’s always difficult to find a show for October. We want to be scary, but we produce at 3 in the afternoon in daylight, and we want a fun family product. ‘Werewolf’s Curse’ achieves that. And for those who want it a little more scary, there’s one evening performance in Blue Island.”

The Blue Island performance is at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at Central Park, 13000 S. Western Ave. Admission is free.

Tickets to Theatre-Hikes performances at the Morton Arboretum are $19 for adults and $13 for children ages 2 to 17, which includes arboretum admission ($12 adults, $9 youth) and parking. Arrive early to enjoy the fabulous fall colors at this 1,700-acre conservatory of trees from around the world. There are also various free fall events weekends in October including a scarecrow trail, complementary wine tasting and fall crafts. The Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Illinois 53 in Lisle, just west of Interstate 355 and north of Interstate 88.

Baker said that Theatre-Hikes is looking for additional venues for next season, and would like to find a partner location in Northwest Indiana. For more information, details on shows and a link to order tickets, visit www.theatre-hikes.org.



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