His name is Kurt, "our Kurt," and he is as much the heart of the Ole Olsen Memorial Theater as is the building itself, the plays and shows that have given such pleasure for all these many years, the stage at the front of the building that echoes with the emotions that are left there.
I can't believe he's gone. His illness was fast and furious and left so many of us aching with loss and sorrow. And laughing. Because wherever Kurt Schindler was, laughter was there, too. And love. As dearly as we all loved him is how much he loved us in return.
Because I was so fascinated by the world of community theater, he asked me to be part of the production of A Christmas Carol in 2017. I was undoubtedly one of the worst assistant directors ever, but I have memories that will stay with me forever.
As do we all.
From Angel Williams: My darling Kurt... it is hard for me to find the words at this moment. Since we first had our bonding moments on stage nearly 14 years ago, you have been my collaborator, my partner in creativity, my dear friend, and my beloved chosen Family. Rehearsals and performances, late nights preparing, phone calls, gazebo time, dinners and road trips, doing the hustle, and my wedding, just to name a few...Cherished memories that I will always carry with me. We saw each other through tremendous joys and deep sadnesses. I am struggling to imagine this world without you in it. Although my heart is broken to lose you, I am forever thankful for the time we had together and that you are no longer in pain. I have no question that you love me and I know that you always knew how much I love and adore you.
You had me sing this at Bill's funeral...and no truer words could be shared now that you are gone: "It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime, so let me say before we part: so much of me is made of what I learned from you. You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart. And now, whatever way our stories end, I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend."
"Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
I love you, honey.
“Kurt’s Role as Otto Frank”
I had the pleasure of directing Kurt Schindler in his last role on the Ole stage. He pursued the role of Otto Frank from checking out a script to read early before auditions to researching Otto Frank’s story.
He was the perfect choice for Otto Frank. Just as Otto was the anchor for the residents of the Secret Annex, Kurt was the anchor for our Secret Annex Ole family on stage. He enjoyed working with the Ole veterans in the show and relished having Brandi Davis, a veteran performer but a newcomer from Elwood to Ole. He was particularly fond of working with Kiley Stiers and our Ole newcomer Carsten Loe. He wanted success for all of our young actors and made suggestions to each for their characters, and he so enjoyed interacting with them on stage. He was their father figure. Kurt and I both valued a positive “family” relationship among our cast, and he put in the extra effort to make our cast a family.
No show with Kurt would be complete without laughter and inside jokes, and The Diary of Anne Frank cast had a terrific balance of laughter and tears. It was not an easy show for Kurt because, as we realized afterwards, his pain and difficulty with memory were a result of his cancer, but playing the role of the historic icon,Otto Frank, and telling the story of all the residents in the Secret Annex took precedence over all he was suffering. His last role and performance on the Ole Stage were exactly what he wanted, and his Otto Frank was excellent!
Kurt and I were from the HIGH SCHOOL graduating class of 1985. Although we did not go to school together, we enjoyed the same music, a love of theatre, as well as the shows from the past. We became close friends. When he was President of Ole Olsen, I was his Vice President. We trusted one another with our secrets, and our past. As far as friends go, he was a rare gem.
He had a faith in me like no other. Kurt inspired me to be a better actress, singer, and director. I will always recall thinking, that COFFEE, by Cole Porter, was WAY out of my range. I said something to him, and he said, “Well you’re hittin’ the notes!!” I thought casting me to play Susan Boyle was crazy, but he assured me that I could do it. When I didn’t have faith in myself, he had enough faith for the both of us.
His calm in the eye of a theatre storm was quite impressive. Everyone loved him and wanted to make him proud. I rarely saw his feathers ruffled by ciaos in a rehearsal. He genuinely cared about all the people he worked with, played with at Ole, as well as his other endeavors. He took time to make people feel special.
I think we’ve all found since his passing, something that those of us who’ve known him for a while already knew … he was VERY LOVED!! Not only did he have a special relationship with all of us at Ole, but his co-workers, customers, and the crew from the “old” Club 14 days remember him fondly. Kurt had a deep voice with a contagious laugh. He had that ever-present smile that lit up a room when he showed up to an event or party fashionably late. The echoes of “Where’s Kurt?” could be heard, even when the party was for him. He knew how to make an entrance.
Thanks for the love and laughter, Kurt!
I can say with certainty. You can be all things to many individuals. On all levels of diversity. Individuality. Each relationship was full of unconditional love. Unique and trusting. He knew how to fill anyone's spirits. At least, that's what I saw.
I first got to know Kurt under a table, literally. We were both cast in a show called The Dining Room. We had so much fun under that table! That's where we forged and pledged our love and friendship 'til the day we died.
On the stage, Kurt was a gifted actor that I had the pleasure of directing a number of times. Whether portraying a dramatic role like Lt Colonel Matthew Markinson in A Few Good Men or as the funny and crazy Sedgwick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Kurt could create a character―heck, Kurt was a character!
Memories just keep flooding into my mind and there are many I could share. His fingerprints are all over our theater group as a director, writer, creator, and Hall of Fame member and he will be truly missed. But what hurts even more is the heartbreak I feel over losing one of my best friends of my lifetime. We never fought, we always laughed and it will be so hard for me without him. We spoke every week, sometimes twice clear up until his passing. I got him a Snoopy quilt a few months ago―he snuggled under it as he left us and I'm so grateful to the family for returning it to me.
Cari Brooks Scott
Kurt Schindler...our Kurtie...was the most humble, kind hearted, talented, and fun person that graced our Ole stage and became my dear friend. He was our own super-star with memorable roles; but he was so much more than that. He made everyone he met feel valued and important; his laugh, contagious and infectious. My greatest memories are getting him to sign a directors copy of a show he wrote that he was going to throw away-he said he felt so important by autographing that for me. He made it a point to sit beside me during a show that was sad so he could hold my hand and comfort me; knowing I’d lost my husband only months before. He always managed to catch me peeking out of the stage and took countless pictures of half of my face. My boys also loved him; my youngest, Canaan, didn’t know his name was Kurt for the longest time; referring to him as “Peace Brotha”, the phrase they said to each other whenever they saw each other. To say he will be missed is an understatement; a hole in our hearts for quite a while, I’m sure. I’m thankful and blessed to have known him; and because I knew him, I am changed for good.
Kurt was a mood lifter, confidence booster and someone I always looked forward to seeing or hearing from. His belief in someone else's abilities - especially your own - was contagious. Have so many favorite memories with Kurt but probably the most special was the dinner theater (opening night) for Once Upon A Cole. I asked him to come out with me to introduce the show. Though I'd written the fairy tale, he helped me turn it into a play. His supportive response was that it was my moment - drink it in and savour it. Thank you, Kurt - for everything. I continue to cherish you and the memories you helped create with all of us. I love you, dear friend.
Shannon Morton Banter
A picture of Kurt from the 1st Showstoppers. He sang "Mr. Cellophane" from the movie Chicago.
Kurt knew I wanted to be a Hollywood actor, and he'd always ask me about my plans and talk about his time on the set of Golden Girls. He was very supportive of my dream.
...Kurt was very supportive of Blair... and Danielle. In fact, Kurt asked Danielle to help him direct one of his shows. His belief in others brought out their best.
Kurt was so talented and creative. He excelled at comedy, especially parody. When writing a play I feel he was intentional about making sure each character had their moment, at least one. As an actor, he could be a bit territorial, but once he had his part he would work and polish his performance to a high standard. He challenged himself and helped his fellows rise to theirs. His was a generous and compassionate heart. He’ll be sorely missed by many.
To say that Kurt Schindler has been an inspiration, authentic, kind, caring, humble, and so much more is an understatement of his many unique and wonderful attributes.
Kurt along with Kelly Mathias-Williams cast me in my first show with Ole Olsen in nearly 20 years. He opened his arms and heart with love and friendship immediately. I instantly felt as though I had known him my entire life.
Kurt encouraged me along with many others to write, and I did. I wrote a Cole Porter review with much assistance from him. I have written songs after his encouragement to learn to play an instrument. His never ending positivity and support has enriched the lives of more people than I can count.
I am blessed to have been able to have his friendship over the last few years. And while the world will never be the same without “our Kurt” the world is certainly a better place for having had him in it.
I think of laughs, honesty, devotion and friendship when it comes to Kurt...but mostly I see how supportive he was. Kurt would support you in achieving your dreams and also support you in your choice to give up or lose one of those dreams. He knew how to lift you up and also understood that sometimes you were in a low, dark place and needed to stay there for a little bit. Kurt could support you while you were trying to support someone else. He had a unique and never-failing ability to connect with a person on a human level. No judgment given or taken. When Kurt listened to you, he truly HEARD you. Kurt had an amazing way of listening to your goals, and telling you all about yourself but in a way that made you feel like a bright and shining star- - like you were the best of the best. He supported his friends...no matter what crazy thing you wanted to do...Kurt believed in you.
There is no good way to end this particular post. I thank everyone who contributed to it. I thank Kurt Schindler for being who he was...who he is, for what he gave and continues to give. We love you, Kurt.