When Wayne Schaltenbrand, a dedicated veteran of Fort Wayne's acting scene, didn't show up Friday at Arena Dinner Theatre for the opening night of "Busybody," a production he directed, people knew something was amiss.
A check of his home revealed that he had died earlier that day. The 67-year-old was had been having health problems, but his death was unexpected, his brother Walter Schaltenbrand said, adding that an autopsy is planned.
Friend and theater colleague Brad Beauchamp felt it was fitting that Wayne Schaltenbrand's last play was "Busybody."
"That was Wayne to a tune. He was a busybody. He was energetic ... talented, giving," Beauchamp said.
A founding member of Arena Dinner Theatre, Schaltenbrand acted, directed and built sets at venues across the city. His last acting performance was in 2010 as Mr. Dussel in "The Diary of Anne Frank" at the University of Saint Francis.
"He made an impact on everybody he met," Beauchamp said. "You would not forget Wayne."
Born in Sunbury, Pa., Penn., he graduated from high school in Delmar, Md., in 1962. He went to Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1966. He received a master's degree from Purdue in 1967 and soon afterward found work as a biochemistry researcher at the Fort Wayne State Developmental Center, according to his brother.
For about 15 years, he was married to Janice Jones, his brother said. Also active in the theater community, she died in 2009 at the age of 62.
Local actor Jim Nelson, who knew Schaltenbrand for close to 40 years, recalled seeing him perform for the first time in a production of "Hello, Dolly!" at Franke Park.
"He was funny, and he was very, very smart and had a big heart," Nelson said. "He was just such a presence. I just always thought he'd be around."
Nelson said Schaltenbrand had a knack for singing and getting laughs but that his most memorable roles were dramatic ones, including Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman" and George in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
"He was amazing. He was absolutely amazing," Nelson said. "He could really do anything."
Funeral arrangements for Schaltenbrand are pending.