In memorium: Chris McHale

Christopher Ian McHale (b. March 30, 1954) passed away suddenly of heart disease at home in the East Village of Manhattan on September 12, 2023.  He was an actor from early in his life to nearly its end.  While he appeared occasionally in movies (The Devil’s Own, Sunset Park, F/X, The Seduction of Joe Tynan) and on television (New York News, The Equalizer, Without a Trace, Charles & Diana, the Law & Order franchise), he was above all, a theater actor. 

Born in Pittsburgh and raised in its South Hills suburbs, Chris first acted in high school, and then studied acting at Carnegie-Mellon University.  Upon graduating, he served an apprenticeship at the Arena Stage in Washington, DC and then he relocated to New York and, apart from forays to far-flung regional theatres, lived out the rest of his life there.  He was respected by his peers in the theatre for his seriousness and his dedication to his art.  He brought to productions a range of specialized expertise: facility with accents (including the nearly-impossible Ulster/Northern Ireland one), mastery of stage fighting (a skill in which he was trained by the dean of stage-fight choreographers, B.H. Barry) and a profound understanding of what Shakespeare’s verse means and how to perform it.  Despite possessing the skills of a Shakespearean, he treasured opportunities to perform new plays and American classics.

At Lincoln Center, he appeared in Oslo (winning an Obie for Ensemble), Macbeth, Nikolai and the Others, Golden Boy, King Lear and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.  On Broadway he appeared in Ink, Execution of Justice, Julius Caesar, Piaf and The Iceman Cometh, while Off-Broadway credits include many plays with The Public Theatre (The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Julius Caesar, King John, Macbeth, Othello, Richard II) and elsewhere (Robert Litz’s Domino at the New York Theatre Workshop; Catherine Filloux’s Lemkin’s House at the McGinn-Cazale; John Patrick Shanley’s Defiance at the Manhattan Theatre Club).  Over the years he acted extensively in Regional Theatre productions, including at Yale Rep, the Shakespeare Theatre of Washington, the Arena Stage (DC), Hartford Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse, Cleveland Playhouse, Merrimack Rep (Lowell MA) and the Magic Theatre (San Francisco). 

Apart from acting, his greatest pleasure was long daily runs on the streets and in the parks of Manhattan. 

Chris mentored many fellow-actors and was beloved by many friends inside and outside his profession, as he was by his siblings Brian, Claire and Kevin and their spouses (Esther Gottlieb, George Milner, Sharon Krinsky) and their children (Alma and Lily Gottlieb-McHale, Hugh Milner, Alexandra McHale). Chris was a beloved friend of Arts Meme founder/publisher Debra Levine for more than fifty years. Other longtime, dear friends include Howard McMaster and Jo Sarzotti.

Donations can be made to the Actors Equity Foundation.  A celebration of his life will be held in the near future. artsmeme wishes to thank the family of Chris McHale for permission to publish this obituary.