The mother of Calvin theatre
Ervina Boevé, professor of theatre, 1953–1990
The following tribute is exercepted from the Spark, Summer 2003
When Ervina Van Dyke Boevé first began teaching theatre at Calvin in the mid-1950s, she was asked, "What if one of your students becomes a professional?” For theatre was still considered a “dark art” in the Christian Reformed tradition of that era. “My answer was,” she said, “‘He better be a good one.’ ” Thus began the patient and steady work by Boevé to change Calvin’s perception about theatre and its place on campus—not only as an extracurricular activity, but as an academic endeavoér.
Boevé graduated from Calvin with an education major in English and history. In her first year of teaching English at Holland Christian High School, she “drew the short straw” and was assigned to direct the senior play. To prepare for this assignment, Boevé participated in a workshop for drama teachers and, to her amazement, enjoyed it. “What I found was that, by being involved with the play, I had much more direct contact with the students,” she said. “I was able to get to know them much better, and I really enjoyed that. I also found that I liked directing plays better than marking English themes.”
Boevé completed a master’s degree in theatre at the University of Michigan in 1954. She was hired at Calvin that same academic year. “At the time I was considered an oddity with a degree in theatre—and one of only three women teaching at Calvin,” she said.
In 1956, Boevé took over as director of Thespian productions. “They were doing good productions of high school material,” she said. “I didn’t think they were at the level that a college should be doing. They (the plays) didn’t have any academic character to them.”Her first Thespian production, An Enemy of the People, was a memorable one, she said. “It was the first major production that challenged the intellect of the students and the audience.”
Over the next 24 years, Boevé directed more than 100 productions in association with the college, including ten years directing the Alumni Players. She also helped Calvin theatre gain acceptance as an academic pursuit, with a major concentration being established in the mid-1970s.
Her desire for close contact with students continued throughout this time. Boevé and her husband, Edgar, became parents away from home for many theatre students. “Mrs. B. took delight in us,” said a former student. “She cared about who we were as people and about whom we would become. She cared about us and we knew it.” First “read-throughs” were held at their home; opening and closing night festivities were all planned by the Boevés.
Beyond her compassion for students, Boevé also worked diligently at integrating faith and the arts.“No matter what show she directed, she taught us about the redemptive moments in it … Long before worldview and every square inch were common words among staff, faculty and students, Mrs. B. was developing a sense of impact on the world of drama … Mrs. B. made theater accessible and respectable within a suspicious context … Without the ground setting work she did in theater, Calvin College would not be taking the kind of leadership it does in the arts.”
"I always believed that you could be as good of a Christian in the theatre as you could in any other field,” said Boevé. “I felt strongly, and still do, that whatever we do should be done to the best of our ability. That has always been one of my guiding principles.”
Ervina Boevé passed away in 2006, after a battle with cancer.