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Jack Schultz remembered as actor, musician, friend

Jack Schultz longtime actor director playwright for Aurora’s Riverfront Playhouse died Saturday from heart attack. Schultz was 58. | Beacon-News

Jack Schultz, the longtime actor, director and playwright for Aurora’s Riverfront Playhouse, died Saturday from a heart attack. Schultz was 58. | Beacon-News file

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Updated: September 17, 2012 8:19PM

We all have people in our lives that without whom, the world is just not the same place.

For many in Aurora, Jack Schultz was one of those people.

Schultz — playwright, actor, director and a driving force behind Aurora’s Riverfront Playhouse — died from a heart attack Saturday at the age of 58.

Born John Erdmann Schultz Jr. in 1953 in Johnstown, Pa., he earned a B.A. in journalism and taught English and coached sports for a time at St. Benedict Catholic Middle School. He later spent 32 years with MetLife, which transferred him to Aurora in 1976. He was a senior business systems analyst, who retired early in 2009.

An incredibly talented playwright, musician, songwriter, actor, and director, “retirement” simply meant more time for Jack’s many artistic pursuits. Jack had met his best friend and soul-mate, Sherry Winchester, at the Riverfront Playhouse in 1983 and they starred in “White Cargo” in January of 1984, the first of many productions together. They married on Sept. 3, 1988, and just celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary. Their son, Jackson, arrived in 1989. Daughter Heidi was nearly born onstage in 1990 during a production of “On Borrowed Time.”

Jack wrote some of Aurora’s most beloved stage productions, including “Fat Bill’s Roadside Cafe,” and “Night of the Living Dead: The Musical.” Every few years since 1987, Jack wrote a fresh play for the consistent characters of Fat Bill’s, taking them through the many stages, twists, and turns of life and endearing them to generations of fans.

Jack was stunning in his ability to perform straight Shakespeare with skill that kept the audience absolutely riveted, then switch gears into parody with such ease that we were caught off guard when we found ourselves doubled over in laughter. His retelling of Macbeth in “The M Word,” is my personal favorite.

Jack’s multi-faceted life experiences together with his clear comprehension of history, politics and the human condition helped him to write complex characters and address difficult themes. Jack found ways to make people laugh, while also making them think.

He loved Aurora and was devoted to community theater, giving everyone from middle school students to seasoned actors the chance to express themselves and experience live stage productions in an intimate venue.

Jack’s musical talent extended beyond the brilliant and often hilarious songs he wrote for Riverfront productions. He earned money as a musician in college and for the past 17 years, Jack, Sherry and their friend Kathleen Dooley performed as “Acoustic Alternatives.”

And as if he weren’t busy enough with these pursuits, Jack also published the monthly magazine, “SuburbaNites,” with Laura Perkins, which will still go on. The magazine covers entertainment news in the wider Chicagoland area. Jack wrote several columns using the pseudonym, Fubar the Adequate.

Jack had also just finished acting in “Heaven Is Hell,” which will be released next month to independent film festivals across the country.

Jack was a good man in every sense — a good husband, a good father, a good friend, a good citizen. I have seldom seen a couple more in love, more devoted to one another, or better at working together than Jack and Sherry.

They approached life with both the humor and seriousness it deserved. Their work ethic and commitment to one another and their children were absolutely serious, yet they found joy and laughter together in good times and bad.

It was my privilege to call Jack Schultz “friend.” With his passing, the city of Aurora, the Riverfront Playhouse — and so many of us who knew and loved him — will never be the same.

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