Money Magazine cited Theatre-on-the-Hill as one of the reasons it selected one of the "Best Places to Live" in 2010.
Yet, there are still residents out there who don’t even know the theater company exists.
“So many people say to me, ‘I didn’t even know there was a stage in Bolingbrook.’ I hate that because the stuff we do is so good,” said Craig Engel, co-president and director for the nonprofit company.
When Engel joined the group as an actor in 2001, it was an informal collaboration of local talent that produced one show a year.
The group was about to fold, Engel said, but he saw its potential and took the reins.
“The end result was I started changing the culture of the way things were done, and now you can literally see a top-quality theater production without having to go to Chicago,” he said.
Now, 10 years later, Engel and company put on two productions a year — one in the fall, usually a drama, and one in the spring, normally a more family-oriented production.
This summer, the company put on a , and rehearsals for its next performance, Den of Thieves already have begun. The performance is slated to begin in November.
Den of Thieves is a comedy written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, whose credits include writer of the HBO series The Sopranos.
And no, the audience doesn’t have to sit outside in November for performances at the village's .
That’s another thing most residents don’t know, Engel said — the stage converts to an indoor theater that can be used year-round.
The benefits of local theater are twofold.
Members of the community get the opportunity to see real art performed live just a few feet away and have an opportunity to participate in something they may have never thought they could do.
“We’re bringing people together, they’re having a positive experience, there’s no rancor or ill will, and at the end of it, they get an applause. You get a different level of confidence — (co-President Michael Fudala) and I really like that aspect of doing this,” Engel said.
Engel has been acting since childhood. His wife, who occasionally puts her talents to act locally, also has appeared on television.
That's one of the beautiful things about the production company: It's a family affair, with some mothers and daughters performing side by side on a given performance. Patrons can expect to see professional actors performing alongside novices and first-time actors at Theatre-on-the-Hill productions.
Joseph Mennella, a 31-year-old Wheaton resident, has performed with Theatre-on-the-Hill seven times. His first show was A Flea in Her Ear, and he's set to be in Den of Thieves.
During the day, he works at the family business, Air Time Inflatables out of St. Charles.
“I wanted to act in high school, but never did,” Mennella said. “I signed up for an acting class because I thought there would be cute girls in the class, but I actually really enjoy acting.”
Theatre-on-the-Hill ticket prices run about $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. The bulk of the proceeds from ticket sales go toward funding the next production, but the company makes an effort to pay its cast as well.
“We’re not in this to get rich. If it has my name on it, of course I want it to be great, but this is for the community,” Engel said.