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Subject: David Schall, 53; Started Actors Co-op

massive heart attack
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Date Posted: April 16, 2003 5:09:06 EDT

David Schall, whose dual passions for acting and Christianity led him to launch the Actors Co-op theater troupe in Hollywood and to run programs aimed at helping Christians succeed in the entertainment world, has died. He was 53.

Officials at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood said Schall suffered a massive heart attack in his car outside the church Friday. He was taken by ambulance to Queen of Angels Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

He was scheduled to appear on stage that day, playing Anton Chekhov's pompous, domineering professor Serebryakov on the opening night of Actors Co-op's production of "Uncle Vanya."

Schall told The Times last year that when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1986, he felt torn between the stage and the pulpit, having studied acting in New York City while also taking seminary courses.

He found a way to do both: In 1987, he founded Actors Co-op and established Inter-Mission, an organization aimed at helping Christians across the country network in the entertainment industry and channel their faith into their creative work.

Schall, a layman, was executive director of entertainment ministries at Hollywood Presbyterian, a position that included overseeing Actors Co-op, which performs in two 99-seat spaces at the church.

Schall grew up in Ford City, Pa., graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and was a political operative in his home state before deciding in 1976 to follow his acting dream -- first in Manhattan, then in Hollywood.

Although Actors Co-op members must be practicing Christians, Schall said he learned early on, after critics dismissed the first two productions as overly dogmatic, that the company had to soft-pedal the message and program for a general audience.

"We woke up and realized we were alienating the very people we wanted to embrace and draw in," he said.

The ruddy-faced Schall played roles both comic -- the harried radio station manager in "The 1940s Radio Hour" -- and tragic, including Joe Keller in last year's staging of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons." His TV credits include parts in "L.A. Law" and "Murder, She Wrote," and a turn as a minister presiding at a funeral in an "ER" episode scheduled to run May 1.

"He could play characters that were bigger than life. He could tap into that kind of powerful, manipulating, controlling guy, like Joe Keller, like Serebryakov," said Marianne Savell, the Actors Co-op producing director. In his own position of authority as entertainment ministries director at the church, Schall was just the opposite, she said -- an advisor, not an autocrat. "He wanted people to connect and help each other."

Survivors include his parents, Fred and Grace Schall of Ford City; a sister; and two brothers.

Hollywood Presbyterian will hold a memorial service on a date to be announced. Actors Co-op has delayed "Uncle Vanya" until April 25.

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