He is considered one of the best actors to come from the area

Statesman Journal
December 4, 2004

Veteran actor Wayne Ballantyne, of Salem, has died.

Ballantyne, who got his start at the Pentacle Theatre in Salem and went on to act in Oregon Shakespeare Festival productions and others around the country, died Thursday night of complications from a long illness. He was 56.

Ballantyne suffered from acute lymphocytic leukemia, which first was detected in 1978. He was treated for the disease in 1985 at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and he returned to acting the following year.

He died at the Evergreen Independence care facility in Independence.

Ballantyne is considered one of the most noted actors to come from Salem.

"He was a great, great talent in designing shows and directing and in acting," said Jo Dodge, a longtime Pentacle Theatre director. "He was our celebrity."

Dodge has known Ballantyne for many years, and she, like others who worked with him, watched his illness take its toll.

"It is sad to see someone so talented struck down by illness," she said.

Louise Larsen, also a veteran actor and director, has known Ballantyne since 1969 and saw herself as his "surrogate mother."

"He was an enormously talented human being who never had the opportunity to completely fulfill his possibilities," she said.

Ballantyne last performed at the Pentacle in November 2000 in the play "Someone Who'll Watch Over Me."

Although in a wheelchair, he was able to play the role of a prisoner being held hostage in Beirut.

Randy Bowser, who first acted with Ballantyne in Eugene, said: "The play accommodated his needs. The strength of his acting still showed through."

Bowser said Ballantyne was "one of those people who are passionate about what they do."

He said even though his illness was taking its toll, the actor wanted to stay involved in his profession.

When he no longer could act, he continued to talk about acting, Bowser said.

"I had the most in-depth conversations about theater with him than with anyone else. He was very passionate about theater."

Robert Herzog was Ballantyne's friend.

"Wayne was a magnificent actor and an intriguing character," Herzog said.

He said Ballantyne was "a strong personality and was challenging in the last several years of his life."

Ballantyne was born in Salem and was a graduate of North Salem High School. He attended what was then Western Oregon State College in Monmouth. He also studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and Mankato State Teacher's College in Minnesota.

Ballantyne got his start at acting in the basement of the home of his cousin Pat Schmidt, who now lives in Mount Angel.

When Ballantyne was in junior high, he already was interested in acting, she said.

"I was asked if I would give him acting lessons," Schmidt said. "I did, in my basement. We did 'Richard II.'"

Schmidt said that in high school, Ballantyne didn't exactly fit in with other groups.

At a talent show, he did the soliloquy from "Hamlet."

"He absolutely blew the kids away," she said.

She said of her cousin, "He was fantastic. He has had a wonderful, wonderful career in the theater. Drama was his life."

Services are pending at Virgil T. Golden Funeral Service.