By Molly Richmond / Photography by Craig Stocks
Who would have thought that watching other people would have lead her to a life of people watching her, but that is exactly what happened to Cheri Beever. Born and bred in Peoria and being the oldest of three girls in her family, Cheri was all too familiar with taking charge so when it came to acting she felt right at home.
When asked how she got into acting, Cheri threw her head back, released a heartfelt laugh that filled the room and settled back onto the couch to tell me her story. “I started out on a novice speech team in high school. I attended Academy of Our Lady my freshman year and then transferred to Bergan High School. I was fascinated with acting after I attended a high school play. I thought it was so cool,” she stated as her eyes lit up recalling her earlier years. “We had a semester long fine arts course and during that time the teacher noticed how well I read and asked me if I would be interested in this novice speech tournament.” The teacher would ask her to memorize a scene from a play and portray all the characters, and that was her first opportunity performing in front of other people. When asked how it felt Cheri paused, her eyes widened and a huge grin came across her face. “It was exhilarating… it always has been!” She performed a piece from the only play she knew at the time which was “The Glass Menagerie.”
Cheri then attended Illinois Central College to pursue her acting career. While at college she also took a stab at singing and joined the college choir, but left due to financial hardship. But she never abandoned her love of the theater. In 1974 she secured her first acting job with Peoria Players staring in “My Fair Lady.” Then in 1975 her first Corn Stock role was in “Kiss Me Kate.” The following year, while performing “Bus Stop,” she would meet the man of her dreams and within two years they would marry. Cheri and her husband, Eldon have been together for thirty five years and are parents to three wonderful sons.
As Cheri began to tell me about all the different roles she played I asked her if there was one that stood out the most for her. “Always, Patsy Cline,” she replied. “I love singing Patsy Cline songs and of everything I’ve done I love that one. But then I do love Evita too. That play was very challenging with all ten costume changes and three wig changes. The best show I starred in was ‘Wit.’ I played the character Vivian Barring and Emma Thompson did that role for HBO.” I asked her if there was ever a role she wanted and didn’t get. “Yes, The King and I. I always wanted to play Anna and never got chosen,” she answered with a heavy heart.
Cheri has been the proud recipient of the Gretchen Iben Founder Award as well as the Leonard Costa Award. Cheri has also served two terms on the board of director at Corn Stock and coordinates and assists with the Grid Iron Dinner. She just finished playing Betty Friedan in “The Feminine Mystique,” a role she has done three previous times. This play was based on a book that changed the consciousness of a country…and a world. Cheri referred to it as “the bible of women’s movement.”
In closing I asked Cheri what advice would she give to upcoming new actors and immediately she said, “Don’t give up trying,” and Cheri is living proof of that. And whether she’s with her family at home or her Corn Stock family, Cheri Beever feels so lucky because she is surrounded by those she loves and able to do what she loves most in life…acting.
Keep track of all of Cheri’s performances playing in Peoria by visiting the ArtsPartners website at www.artspartners.net and the Live Theatre League website at peorialivetheatre.com. Both websites provide a calendar of events and offer the opportunity to sign up to receive a free newsletter. You can also learn more about Peoria’s Corn Stock Theatre at www.cornstocktheatre.com.