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New theater group forms in Park Forest

Illinois Theatre Center Park Forest which closed May socould be home new theater group.  |  File photo

Illinois Theatre Center in Park Forest, which closed in May, soon could be the home to a new theater group. | File photo

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Updated: December 12, 2012 6:17AM



It was a big loss for the Park Forest community when Illinois Theatre Center closed its doors in May. But a few months later, the Artists Walk Theatre was formed with the idea of producing professional theater in ITC’s vacant space, at 371 Artists Walk.

“This was my brainchild,” said David Boettcher, actor, director and former member of ITC’s board. “I thought that we needed to keep professional theater from disappearing from the south suburbs.

“When I discussed the possibility of creating a new theater group with my fellow board members, they agreed that we absolutely should do it,” said Boettcher, last seen on the ITC stage in March in “The Cocktail Hour.”

ITC closed after Etel Billig, who co-founded it with her husband Steve in 1976, died in March at age 79. For nearly four decades, it gave Southlanders an alternative to heading downtown for professional theater.

Boettcher said village officials are supportive of Artists Walk Theatre’s plans to succeed ITC.

“When we first concocted the new theater idea, we met with the village of Park Forest,” he said. “They were very enthusiastic and promised to help us. They have already given us a break in the lease and are promoting us in the community.”

Boettcher said the nonprofit theater company hopes to collect enough donations to present its inaugural production of “Lost in Yonkers,” Neil Simon’s Pulitzer Prize-, Tony Award-winning play, in February and March.

The new theater company is renting the 176-seat ITC space for two months to put on 10 performances of the comedy.

“The success of that initial production will determine whether additional shows will be possible,” Boettcher said. “We’re attempting to collect an immediate $3,000 in donations for securing the rights to ‘Lost in Yonkers,’ for a deposit on our rent and for set design. We also need to raise an additional $50,000 by the end of the year to make a go of the new Artists Walk Theatre.”

Donations for the Artists Walk Theatre can be sent to Friedman & Huey Associates LLP, 1313 W. 175th Street, Homewood, IL 60430, Attention: Patrick Burke.



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