Michael Dice, Chicago-Area Actor and Teacher, Dead at 57

Obituaries   Michael Dice, Chicago-Area Actor and Teacher, Dead at 57 Michael Dice Sr., a Chicago area actor and theatre educator, died of a heart attack Dec. 14 on his way to perform in the Stage Left Theatre production of Prairie Lights, in Chicago.

Mr. Dice, 57, was born in South Bend, IN, and lived in Bartlett, IL. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, and children Sara and Mike Jr. lived in Bartlett, IL, According to friends in the theatre community, Mr. Dice was on his way to perform a matinee of Stage Left's Prairie Lights, a world premiere musical at Theatre Building Chicago, when he suffered a heart attack. Both Dec. 14 performances of Prairie Lights were canceled while the cast and Stage Left staff held an impromptu wake at Theatre Building Chicago. Stage Left managing director Kevin Heckman went on as Mr. Dice's character, Frank Pringle, to a sold-out show on Sunday, Dec. 15.

"We made it through the show, and have dedicated the rest of the run to Mike’s memory," said castmate Karin McKie.

Mr. Dice received his B.S. in theatre/speech from Illinois State University (with a distinguished Alumnus award from the ISU Theatre Department), and his M.Ed. from National-Louis University He recently resumed his performance career after a 30-year hiatus, time he spent teaching acting and English while directing plays at Lake Park High School in Roselle, IL.  While at Lake Park, he directed over 100 productions, including three IHSA State Drama-winning plays, and he served as Lake Park Education Association’s union president for many years.  He taught hundreds of kids in his career, including Famous Door's Dan Rivkin.

Chicago-area performance credits include his son's Jenny Died at the Mary Arrchie Hoffman Festival XIII, and Coleman understudy in The Lonesome West at Famous Door.  Other roles he played included Daddy Warbucks in Annie, McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Judas/John the Baptist in Godspell, and Prospero in The Tempest at Elgin Community Theatre; Pasquale in The Most Happy Fella and Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance at Hemmens Auditorium; Herbie in Gypsy at Woodstock Opera House; roles in She Loves Me, A Funny Thing Happened…, The Lady's Not for Burning and Brigadoon at Timber Lake Playhouse; and The Hostage and Tartuffe at Illinois State University.

Veteran actor Rob Skrocki will take over the role of Pringle in Prairie Lights beginning Dec. 20. "Mike would have been pleased that the show he loved so dearly will continue," McKie said.

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Stage Left Theatre is devoted to plays that address social issues. Prairie Lights, its world premiere musical, has lyrics by SLT member David Rush, book by Susan Lieberman, music by Rosalie Gerut and is directed by SLT member Drew Martin. Music is by Carl Haan. Performances continue to Jan. 4, 2003.

The show is set in December 1905, as "two Jewish children ride the orphan train west to Wellspring, Nebraska. Due to their heritage, Rose and Ben find themselves paired with the only Jewish couple in town. This new family struggles to merge together while the other townsfolk embrace the true essence of the holidays."

The show is based on the Emmy-nominated teleplay. It was developed through Stage Left's Downstage Left New Play development program, and was also workshopped at Jewish Theatre of New England.