In Chicago, Apple Tree Falls After 26 Years

News   In Chicago, Apple Tree Falls After 26 Years The Apple Tree Theatre in suburban Chicago has closed its doors after 26 years, according to its website, which states, "Apple Tree Theatre and the Eileen Boevers Performing Arts Workshop have ceased operations."

Its founder, Eileen Boevers, died earlier this year. She had retired in 2008. The website statement continues, "The Board of Directors wishes to thank all the artists, teachers, students, staff, patrons and community that supported operations for the Theatre's 26 years and the Workshop's nearly 40 years."

The theatre was an offshoot of the acting workshop that Boevers founded in 1970. The closure is due to financial woes, according to a further statement.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a notice from the troupe reads, "This decision has not been made without a great deal of soul searching, and only after exhaustive efforts to explore every possible avenue of financial support that would enable us to keep the doors open and the wonderful services and traditions alive."

The staff has been laid off, and students and subscribers have been offered refunds or other options.

Apple Tree was 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. 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, Boevers said in 2008, she felt like Mother Courage, the indomitable stage character who hunched down and dragged a cart, pulling a load through rocky terrain. She died in January 2009, at age 68.

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.

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.

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, Boevers retired from the company in January 2008. 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.

As executive/artistic director 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.

In 1998 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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