Theater Undreground takes its act on the road

The group might be called Theater Undreground, but its members are out and about.

Based in Richmond, the community theater company that literally began in a basement in 2009 as a way for area theater lovers to practice their art – whether through acting, comedy, writing, playing music or directing – is working to draw in more people.

Through upcoming Improv Comedy shows in Richmond and a June 28 show in Marengo, as well as a July production of “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” Theater Undreground is expanding.

“We’re growing, and we feel that our mission statement of ‘flipping the perspective on theater in our community and in the art itself’ is something this area needs,” said Tim Vance, the group’s vice president.

Having recently created Theater Uppreground improv classes for children ages 11 to 18, the group also is working to instill a love of theater and performance in future generations.

Theater Undreground paired with Marengo Main Street Inc. to host both a show and a donation drive for the M.O.R.E. Center, which helps needy families in Union and Marengo. A suggested donation of $5 is requested for the show, along with a canned good for the center.

“It’s the other corner of the county from us, and we thought it was important to spread our wings and start planning other events that are a distance away so more people can come to see our shows,” Vance said of the show.

A July production of “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” written by Stephen Adly Guirgis and directed by Vance, will feature the group’s dark comedy side.

Set in underground subway tunnels, the play tells the story of Judas in appellate court in purgatory. Historical figures, such as Mother Teresa, Mary Magdalene and Sigmund Freud appear, Vance said.

“It’s very funny, kind of urban,” he said. “A lot of the characters have some swag to them.”

Drawn to the group when he moved from Chicago to Carpentersville, Vance performed in his first show with Theater Undreground in 2010. Before that, he performed as an extra in numerous films, such as “The Break-up” and “Road to Perdition,” and with Second City.

“When I became an actor, I wanted to change the world and shape people’s minds and build this universe that would shape people’s ideas,” he said. “Theater Undreground is the best venue to do that.”

“I think a lot of people nowadays will go and sit in a movie theater and they’re so detached from what’s going on. With theater, you’re actively involved and you feel connected with the actors on stage and you feel a part of it.”

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