Will Schutz, a stalwart of the off-Loop theater community who had been battling pancreatic cancer since January, died on May 25, just shy of his 48th birthday.
Schutz’s lack of health insurance led to many of his friends in the theater community hosting benefits for him over the past several months. Within hours of his passing, messages of condolence could be found all over Facebook, where a group known as Because Will Schutz Is Beloved had been keeping track of his struggles. Information about a still-to-be-announced community memorial will be available there as well, according to Jan Blixt, artistic director of A Crew of Patches, one of the many companies with whom Schutz worked during his twenty years in the storefront scene.
After earning an MFA in acting from Ohio University, Schutz moved to Chicago and embarked on the typical off-Loop journey of temp jobs by day and non-Equity theater by night. Schutz’s lengthy and varied resume of character roles included the mad scientist Herr Xylene in Defiant Theatre’s Action Movie series, and two turns as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr. Watson in City Lit’s Holmes and Watson and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Schutz had precision-tooled comic timing, but he could also bring the menace, as demonstrated by his performance last year in Signal Ensemble Theatre’s production of The Birthday Party. His last stage appearance was in Remy Bumppo’s The Marriage of Figaro this past December. To judge by the grief being expressed across the Chicago theater community this week, he was beloved indeed. Chicago theater writer Catey Sullivan wrote a lengthy profile of Schutz after his diagnosis.