Eileen Boevers, Influential Director and Teacher in Chicago, Has Died

Obituaries   Eileen Boevers, Influential Director and Teacher in Chicago, Has Died Eileen Boevers, a Chicago-area theatre educator and director who influenced several generations of theatre artists, and who founded Apple Tree Theatre in Highland Park, IL, died Jan. 11 after a battle with cancer, according to her colleagues in the Chicago theatre community.

Her "two best productions," she said in fall 2008, when she was given a special Joseph Jefferson Award for lifetime achievement, were her daughter Jessica Bogart, a Broadway actress, and son David Boevers, a technical theatre specialist who teaches at Carnegie Mellon.

Since its founding in 1983 in the northern Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Apple Tree won 28 Jeff Awards and earned 109 nominations. In the early days of the troupe, she said last year, she felt like Mother Courage, the indomitable stage character who hunched down and dragged a cart, pulling a load through rocky terrain.

The company began in the same 88-seat church venue where Steppenwolf Theatre Company had taken root. Apple Tree has performed mainstage productions at three homes since 1983.

Ms. Boevers was was known for giving young actors and directors their start.

An Apple Tree production of Sweeney Todd, with Alene Robertson as Mrs. Lovett (the production's one Equity contract), was an early success for the company in 1986-87. It moved to a commercial run at The Theatre Building and won 1987 Jeff Awards for Best Musical, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress. It solidified the troupe's reputation as an important addition to the Chicago theatre community. Apple Tree is committed to contemporary plays and musicals, often re-imagining large musicals in small spaces, and is respected for giving attention to lesser-known musicals such as The Spitfire Grill and Violet.

People who have spent their careers in Chicago theatre probably passed through the doors of Apple Tree Theatre. Future Broadway director Gary Griffin (The Color Purple) found an artistic home there, directing Assassins and other productions.

Facing health issues, Ms. Boevers retired from the company in January 2008.

As executive/artistic director Ms. Boevers produced, directed, taught, performed, and wrote for Apple Tree Theatre. Among her directorial credits there are productions of Big, the Musical; The Spitfire Grill; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Big River; Grace and Glorie; Violet; Old Wicked Songs; Denial; The Heiress; The Secret Garden (Jeff nomination), Sleuth; Seesaw; Stop the World, I Want to Get Off; Waiting for Godot; Happy Days; Sugar; Anna Karenina (Jeff nomination); Cyrano de Bergerac and A Little Night Music along with productions for the youth programming department.

She founded the Eileen Boevers' Performing Arts Workshop in 1970. That company would spawn Apple Tree, which has a respected education program and presents works in its Theatre for Young Audiences initiative (founded in 1989).

In 1998, Ms. Boevers was recognized by the Chicago Tribune Arts and Entertainment editors as a Chicagoan of the Year, by the Lake and McHenry County YWCA as a Woman of Achievement, and by the National Council of Jewish Women as a Woman of Influence. In addition to having received the Mayor's Award for the Arts and the Baha'i U. Children's Day Award, she was named to the North Shore Walk of Fame. She also received the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award from the Illinois Humanities Council.

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