The death of Mary Tyler Moore actor Dick Schaal spurred many in the Chicago area, where he got his start and loved the most, to recall the impact he had on the world of theater.
He died at 86 on Tuesday, and since then, memories of his early days have been bubbling out of Chicago.
Schaal was in the second cast of Chicago’s famed comedy theater, Second City, beginning in 1962.
According to The Chicago Tribune, he was a comedy pioneer and brought something special into the troop.
Writer Jeffrey Sweet, who wrote extensively about Schaal in his book, Something Wonderful Right Away, said of Schaal, “Using mime, Dick could place 40 objects within a scene, remember where they all were, and then modify them. He was a great genius at that. You’d swear he could actually see the objects.”
Before Schaal made it big on shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, and even after his TV career began to decline, he was teaching and mentoring at Second City. He was very well-loved there and will not soon be forgotten by those who were lucky enough to know him.
“Dick Schaal was one of the best of his generation,” said Andrew Alexander, the current owner of Second City. “His physical comedy was unparalleled. He loved to teach and he inspired a generation of actors and improvisers. Even though he was confined to a wheelchair in recent years, that did not deter him from directing or teaching.”
“This mentor,” Alexander said, “will be dearly missed.”
Dick Schaal was an inspiration to his only daughter, Wendy, as well. She said of her talented father,
“His whole body was an instrument. He was the one who really took off on working in the space. That was where the work could make the visible invisible. In his workshops, he would teach performers to explore what would happened to their body when handling objects.”
What an amazing life!