Last Friday, actor David Schall failed to appear at his theater, Actors Co-op in Hollywood, for the opening night of Chekhovs Uncle Vanya, in which he was playing the title role. Members of his company began searching for him and found him in his locked car, dead from a heart attack.
The 53-year-old Schall grew up in Pennsylvania, began his acting career in New York in 1976 and co-founded Actors Co-op in 1987 as part of his ministry work with Hollywoods First Presbyterian Church, on whose Gower Street campus Actors Co-op is located. (In that year, this critic, writing for the Weekly, snapped that Schalls premiere production smacked of militant Christian propaganda.) In the intervening years, through Schalls guidance, Actor Co-op, and its membership of Christian artists, has gained respect throughout the larger theater community for the intelligence, discipline and passion behind its stage work. (See this weeks Theater feature.) From Hollywood Presbyterian, Schall launched Inter-Mission, a network of support groups for Christian artists in the entertainment industry, now with 3,500 members and branches in Los Angeles, New York, Florida and Chicago. Among Schalls closest confidants was Back Stage West theater critic Madeleine Shaner, who invited Schall to her Passover Seder last year.
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Though Shaner says she is not a particularly devout person and couldnt fully understand Schalls religious convictions, she found him to be singularly tolerant, compassionate and a dear friend. I always thought that David, and the people he worked with, gave Christianity a good name.