Obituary: Elizabeth Forster
Elizabeth Forster, who taught drama for 46 years at King Low-Heywood Thomas School (KLHT) in Stamford, CT, where she directed over 200 plays, died on Monday at Norwalk Hospital in Norwalk, CT following surgery for a broken hip. She was 98 years old and had lived in Darien most of her adult life.
Known to her family and friends as Boo (short for ‘Elizaboo’, the name coined by her older brother Barton who as a child couldn’t quite pronounce Elizabeth), she was hired in 1955 at Low-Heywood by Headmistress Jean Herrick.
What started off as a part time job as a drama teacher turned into a forty-five year commitment. Scaling ladders, setting light cues, building sets, creating costumes, working with Middle School students and writing original plays for them in conjunction with their English teachers, directing Shakespeare on the lawn outside the Upper school, directing three act plays, co-directing musicals and organizing all-school events were all part of Boo’s PART TIME JOB.
Elizabeth Fowler Chapman was born in Brooklyn, NY on May 25, 1916, to Howard and Lucy Chapman. Her father, an architect and graduate of Beaux Arts in Paris, was part of a large Quaker family from Sands Point and Brooklyn Heights, NY. Indeed, Boo was the last survivor of 11 cousins from her father’s side of the family.
Her mother Lucy Barton was born in Rome, NY and raised by her Aunt Jennie. Her mother Lucy Fowler died in childbirth. Lucy traced her roots back to William Brewster, Samuel Fuller, Priscilla Mullens and others who all sailed on the Mayflower.
Boo grew up in Stamford, CT on Hope Street and graduated from Low-Heywood school in 1934. She went onto Vassar College and graduated there in 1938 as a theater major. Boo moved to New York and soon met and married Norman Forster whose family owned Léron, the famous luxury linen retail store. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1969. Their children are Priscilla Sellery who today works at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, CT and David who carries on the family business at Léron.
During the 1940s Boo was active in New York’s Junior League as a puppeteer, putting on performances for settlement houses throughout the city. She was vice-president of the Junior League when the family moved to Darien, CT in 1951.
She left an indelible mark on King Low-Heywood. “Her trademark at KLHT has always been her ability to find the magic within each of her students, “said Cathy Mishkin, KLHT senior class advisor who worked together with Boo on many productions. “She avoided stereotyping and found positive things in all of her students.”
The dramas she directed included You Can’t Take it With You, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Skin of Our Teeth, Much Ado About Nothing, Comedy of Errors, A Mid Summer Night’s Dream, Great Expectations, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Man Who Came to Dinner and Twelve Angry Men.
The musicals she co-directed with Ann Ostrow and Melody Libonati included Kiss Me Kate, Fiorello, The Mikado, Godspell, The Boyfriend, Students Be Seated, 1776, Oklahoma, The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, The Wizard of Oz, Music Man, The Wiz, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and Peter Pan.
In adding parts and lines to plays no less than those of Shakespeare, Boo said, “I like big productions where I could fill the cast with younger students to give them confidence and a taste for the theater.”
With a keen sense of history it was no accident that the very last play she chose to direct, Thorton Wilder’s Our Town, was also the first play she directed at Low-Heywood.
Having seen hundreds of students over the course of her 46 years in teaching, Boo remarked at her 90th birthday party with characteristic humor, “The growth and development of one’s character is seldom pleasant during construction.”
Besides a love for teaching, sailing and tennis, she loved to travel. She was among other teachers at KLHT who chaperoned students on trips to China, Russia, Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Prague, Austria, Poland, England, Scotland, Wales and Switzerland.
In addition to her children Priscilla and David, she is survived by 4 grandchildren, Amy, David and Stephen Sellery and Graham Forster, plus 7 great grandchildren.
“She was a poised, elegant, artistic woman, “said Cathy Mishkin, “who saw herself as a lifelong learner.”
The family will attend funeral services at Friends Meeting House in Old Westbury on Tuesday. A celebration of Boo’s life is being planned for later in January at KLHT. lawrencefuneralhome.com
— by the Family