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Director David Boettcher addresses the cast of 
“Lost in Yonkers” during a recent rehearsal. The 
Neil Simon play will be the first production of 
Artists Walk Theatre.
(Photo provided by 
Artists Walk Theatre)

When the cast of Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers” take the stage at 2 p.m. Thursday at Flossmoor Community House, they will mark the return of professional theatre to the South Suburbs.

The production of Artists Walk Theatre is the culmination of three years of work by the new theater organization. Its formation began almost as soon as Illinois Theatre Center (ITC) closed in 2012, according to Director David Boettcher. 

“We thought the South Suburbs ought to have professional theater, and we don’t,” Boettcher said. 

Shows at Flossmoor Community House, 847 Hutchison Road, will be Thursday, Sept. 17, at 2 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 18, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 18, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.;  Sunday, Sept. 20, at 2 p.m.; Thursday, Sept. 24, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 26, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Sept. 27, at 2 p.m.

Getting a new organization going held a number of challenges, not least was raising enough money to support the first production. 

“We beat every bush we could — friends, family, businesses,” Boettcher said of the early fundraising efforts. 

Then one day he happened to pass a storefront and noticed the motto “Changing the world, one grant at a time.” He went in. The grant-finding service made the difference.

“They put us over the top,” he said.

The group received more help along the way in the form of pro bono legal and accounting services and use of Flossmoor Community House for what Boettcher called a very reasonable rate to put on the first performance.

The next challenge is building an audience, and Boettcher hopes the first production will attract all the theater fans who have missed seeing professional shows.

Theaters typically do not make their way on ticket sales alone, Boettcher said. They need to raise money through grants, sponsorships and other fundraising activities.

The other efforts don’t work, though, without an audience.

“Theater exists only for an audience,” he said. 

Audiences during the show’s run will get to see Simon’s award-wining play about two young brothers left by their widowed father in the care of their strict German grandmother in 1940’s Yonkers, New York, according to the synopsis on the AWT website. During their eight month stay with their grandmother, the boys learn much about getting along with other people and Grandmother softens just a little toward them. 

Boettcher believes he’s got a great team put together that will impress anyone who attends a ‘Lost in Yonkers’ show.

Boettcher is fresh from a stint in China portraying Franklin Roosevelt for a film produced there. He is a former theater teacher and director at Homewood-Flossmoor High School and has been active in community theater in the area, including work with The Drama Group of Chicago Heights.

Angela Beckefeld, who plays Bella, was recently seen as Nora in “The Muesli Belt” with Gaelic Park Players and has had leading roles in two other Neil Simon plays, “Proposals” and “Barefoot in the Park.” For the past three years she has been doing movies and played a leading role in the feature “Kathryn Upside Down,” according to the AWT website.

Kyle Delnegro (Jay) is a native of the South Suburbs and is a Governors State University student. He is a graduate of The Second City Training Center Conservatory Program. He works with his hip-hop group, “Supervise the Throne,” and plays harmonica with his comedy Bluegrass band, “Wilson from Castaway.”

Gary Murphy (Eddie) also has experience acting Simon characters. He has played Oscar Madison in “The Odd Couple” and Victor Velasco in “Barefoot in the Park.” He is currently an ensemble member with Oil Lamp Theatre and a founding member/executive director for Black Elephant Theatre.

Jean Roberts (Grandma) was most recently seen as Ann in ITC’s March 2012 production of The Cocktail Hour. Other recent roles at ITC include Marthy in Anna Christie and Berthe in Boeing-Boeing, as well as parts in Summerfest productions of “Cabaret” and “Babes in Arms.”

Denise Smolarek (Gert) recently appeared in Marat/Sade with The Right Brain Project and in the premiere of “Devil May Care” with The Wishbone Theatre Collective.

Brendan Sullivan (Artie) is making his stage debut in this AWT inaugural production. He has had training in monologues, TV pilots, auditioning and on- camera technique. He has done commercials and videos.

Nick Costello as Uncle Louie is a theater major in his final year at Columbia College. His best known film roles are “High Stakes,” “Hero” and “Grey.”

Carlyse Owens is the stage manager for the play. She has recently served as the light board operator for Chicago Kids Company and as stage manager for “Other Desert Cities” with The Drama Group. She was a Kit Kat girl in ITC’s “Cabaret.”

Judith E. Felix is the production’s “prop-arazzi,” managing props and decor. And David Davis is the scenic designer.

Three area restaurants have partnered with Artists Walk Theatre and are offering special incentives, two of them in conjunction with “dinner and a show” packages, according to theater officials. 

Fresh Starts Restaurant, located in downtown Flossmoor, is offering 50 percent off the price of a second entrée with the purchase of a full-price entrée, valid for the day of the performance. 

La Voute Bistro, part of Homewood’s elegant boutique style La Banque Hotel, which opened its doors earlier this summer, donated four $25 gift cards to the production, which will be raffled during the performances. Winners will be announced during the second weekend of the performance.

The Cottage on Dixie, also in Homewood at the border of Flossmoor, is offering a four-course meal for $35.


Artists Walk Theatre

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