BY MARY KAY SWEIKAR
Dr. Andrew Peters had been away from theater and singing for more than 20 years — until two years ago. At that time, his daughter, Isabelle, renewed his interest when she joined the cast of a local children’s play.
Since then Andrew and Isabelle, now 11, have appeared in several Danville Light Opera and Red Mask performances, and in two shows together — the musical “Oliver” and the classic drama “To Kill a Mockingbird” now being presented by Red Mask Players.
“I’ve loved being in two different shows with Isabelle. It’s been such a blessing. Until I got back on stage I didn’t realize that acting and singing were pieces that I’ve been missing in my life,” Andrew said. “This creative outlet is something that I need.”
Isabelle said she and her dad’s most loyal show fans are her mom — Dr. Eleanor Peters, a family practice physician with Christie Clinic in Danville — and her sister, Rebecca, who is 9.
Eleanor grew up in Danville, and Andrew is from Hoffman Estates. They met in the biology lab as undergraduates at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and they maintained a long-distance relationship for four years that included some long commutes on the Amtrak train.
Eleanor attended Southern Illinois University Medical School and Andrew attended the National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, where he earned his doctorate of chiropractic.
The couple married after finishing their respective degrees and moved to Appleton, Wis. Eleanor did her residency at a hospital there, Andrew worked in chiropractic practice, and that’s where Isabelle and Rebecca were born.
For the next three years the family lived in Seattle, Wash., where Andrew went on to complete another doctorate at Bastyr University, this time in naturopathic medicine. Andrew said the additional medical training gives him more flexibility in treating patients.
Isabelle and Andrew are appearing in the Red Mask performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“Dad and I just had to try out for ‘Mockingbird,’ since it’s my mom’s favorite book,” Isabelle said.
Her father added that “To Kill a Mockingbird” has only dialogue to memorize — unlike “Oliver!”, which has mostly songs.
“This play was a new challenge for both Isabelle and me,” Andrew said.
The Peters family admits the current play script often becomes the topic of dinner conversation and also the bedtime reading choice for Andrew and Isabelle.
Home to Danville
When a job opportunity came up at Christie Clinic eight years ago, Eleanor said she jumped on it.
“We have family in Danville and in the Chicago area,” she said, “and it’s also nice to work in a family practice in the same town where I grew up.”
Andrew is the proprietor and sole practitioner in his Central Illinois Natural Health Clinic, which has locations in Danville and Urbana.
In his practice, Andrew addresses the same conditions as a family physician does, but he takes a more holistic perspective, using only natural therapies.
“With integrative medicine there’s a place for traditional medicine, as well as herbal medicine,” he said. “I prescribe nutritional supplements and a therapeutic lifestyle that includes a proper diet, sleep and stress management.”
It’s Andrew’s goal to see a patient before he or she has a heart attack and to encourage a healthy lifestyle to help prevent a health crisis.
Andrew tries to encourage this kind of lifestyle for his whole family. “I don’t want the girls to be so busy that they can’t get enough sleep or eat healthy meals,” he said.
“For example, before I came to play practice tonight I had to finish my peas first,” Isabelle said, with a smile.
Even though they encourage the girls to be in a variety of activities, Andrew said he and Eleanor also want them to have some free time so they can “just be kids” for a while.
Isabelle, a fifth-grader at Schlarman Academy, decided to give up gymnastics and swimming so she could replace those activities with archery team, vocal and dance lessons, playing clarinet in the school band — and, of course, acting.
Her singing potential was recognized when she took the lead two years ago in the DLO musical “A Little Princess.”
Rebecca, who is in third grade at Schlarman Academy, takes private piano lessons, as well as swimming lessons at the YMCA. Since she isn’t into acting, Rebecca still has time to read for enjoyment. She often works her way through entire series of books once she gets started.
Isabelle was quick to add information about Eleanor’s talents.
“My mom has a really pretty singing voice, and she’s also a needle wizard,” she said.
Eleanor has sewn tons of costumes for the local children’s shows, and she also knits, sews and quilts — all skills she learned from her mother and grandmother. She is teaching her girls these needlework skills, and Andrew also has picked up on knitting, making several scarves in his free time.
Eleanor also enjoys cooking and tries to have the family eat their dinner meals together whenever possible. Andrew is a lector at St. Paul’s Church, and he sometimes joins in singing with the choir.
The Peters family remains strong proponents of Catholic education. Andrew said, “A school like Schlarman Academy gives our children a good atmosphere as it teaches values and religious education. The class sizes are small, so the students get personal attention from the teachers.”
Both Andrew and Eleanor try to exercise at the YMCA and on their home equipment, and the whole family likes to takes walks with Desmond, their mixed-breed dog.