Fox Valley talk: Elgin native pursuing a life in Chicago’s theater scene
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org June 7, 2013 3:50PM
Elgin native Audrey Flegel is building a name for herself as an actress in Chicago's vaunted theater scene. | Submitted
Updated: July 11, 2013 6:05AM
CHICAGO — Elgin native Audrey Flegel has the busy life of an up and coming actress. And it’s pretty much been that way since high school.
Back in those days, Flegel would be at the National Street train depot in time to catch a 6:15 a.m. train to attend the Chicago Academy for the Performing Arts in the big city.
There, a bus would pick up students to bring to the school. With rehearsals, a good many days Flegel would get back to her home in Elgin after 8 p.m.
“I’d eat, sleep, get up, and do it all again,” Flegel said.
These days, Flegel’s hectic schedule involves balancing several jobs as well as her life in the theater. On the day of this interview that meant heading to one of those jobs for four hours, then over to teach an acting class, then to a rehearsal for The Strange Tree Group’s presentation of Elizabeth Bagby’s new time-travel comedy, “The Half-Brothers Mendelssohn.”
That’s not to mention finding time to work with her fellow performers in “Vampeero,” a sketch comedy group that is putting together a show with dark comedy and music for the fall.
In “The Half-Brothers Mendelssohn,” according to a press release, Theo Mendelssohn believes he can change the past, alter the future, find true love and bring back the dead by building a working time machine to blast 20 years into the past to stop his mother from abandoning the family in 1908.
Flegel said she plays the girl next door to Theo and his half-brother Nicholas.
“Every time they come back from the past there is a new and different future,” she said. As such, Flegel said her character is one who “wants to be a strong, sure woman. And there are three versions of the same person, so I am developing a through-line connecting them all.”
Flegel noted that the time-travel concept should appeal to fans of TV’s “Doctor Who,” and though the show is written as a comedy, it has some serious themes.
“It’s about accepting things you wish were different and reconciliation,” Flegel said.
She said that being in on the ground floor of a new work is exciting in that she can see firsthand how director Thrisa Hodit and playwright Bagby work together to tweak the show.
“It’s a really original and endearing show, and one that you can bring your family, which is refreshing,” she said.
Flegel got her first taste of live theater with her own clan, heading down to Chicago to see a touring production of “Phantom of the Opera.”
A Christian theater summer camp solidified her wanting to act, and her path has included studying and living in New York, then coming back six years ago to Chicago, where she now lives in the Ravenswood neighborhood.
“It’s more livable here, and there is more work for non-Equity actors who are working to get their union cards,” she said.
In Chicago, she graduated from the School of the Steppenwolf, studying under some of that troupe’s acclaimed actors.
“They were extremely nurturing and great at getting you to build confidence in yourself,” Flegel said.
Flegel has performed with many Chicago area companies taking roles that have included playing Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet” in a version with a twist presented in 2009 by Elgin’s Janus Theatre on the eighth floor space in the Professional Building.
“It was an all-female cast, but the director didn’t change the gender of the roles,” Flegel said.
While that may be unusual, one of the part-time jobs she has held has been working as a pretend patient for medical students.
“But I’ve never worked as a waitress,” she said.
She’s also set to appear in an ad running this summer for Wisconsin tourism.
“I love acting and can’t imagine not doing it. I don’t care about being famous. I love the craft. And I love the freedom I have in my life right now,” Flegel said.
“The Half-Brothers Mendelssohn” begins in previews June 18 at Signal Ensemble Theatre, 1802 W. Berenice Ave. in Chicago. Tickets are on sale at www.strangetree.org and range from $15 -$50. For more information on Audrey Flegel see www.audreyflegel.com/.