Gail Bell, an actress and veteran stage and company manager for Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, including Godspell, died in Florida, Dec. 3, 2001 after an illness, according to colleagues in the theatre community.
Ms. Bell, who was 67, will be remembered at a memorial service in her honor 4 PM Jan. 14, at the SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, where she served for four years as company manager for the long-running interactive comedy Grandma Sylvia's Funeral before retiring in 1998. She was born in Gainesville, FL, and died in Lakeland, FL. She is survived by a sister, Sandy Andrews, and a niece.
In the 1990s, Ms. Bell began working with the producer Dana Matthow, who owns the SoHo Playhouse. Before her long-run with Grandma Sylvia's Funeral, which Matthow produced, she worked on his first two works as a commercial producer — Sea Marks and Hysterical Blindness and Other Southern Tragedies, becoming theatre manager of the playhouse which was then known as The Playhouse on Vandam. During Grandma Sylvia's four-year tenure, and in addition to her many duties as company manager, Ms. Bell is remembered for having volunteered to appear in a coffin costume as Grandma Sylvia at numerous cast appearances throughout the city. Friends said she referred to this stint as "the low-light" of her career.
A past board member of the League of Off-Broadway Theatres and Producers, Ms. Bell's career spanned four decades. After graduating from AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) in the late 1960s, she worked as an actor-understudy and lead stage manager on many Off-Broadway productions. In 1971 Ms. Bell company-managed the original Off-Broadway production of Godspell at The Cherry Lane and the landmark Arvin Brown production of Long Day's Journey Into Night at The Promenade, and she moved with Godspell when it transfered to Broadway in 1976. Both productions were produced by Edgar Lansbury, Stuart Duncan and Joseph Beruh and she also served as company manager for the first national tour of Godspell.
By 1980 Ms. Bell worked for general manager Dorothy Olim as company manager and associate general manager on over 25 Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, including Poppea Nongena, To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, The Runner Stumbles, Father's Day, Weekend Near Madison, Piano Bar and Nightclub Cantana Cantata. In 1983 she formed her own company, managing Sam Shepard's Fool for Love and Bhutan. In 1984 she began an association with the producer and theatre owner Eric Krebs, managing his theatres, The John Houseman and Douglas Fairbanks, and working on the development of one of Off-Broadway's earliest computerized ticketing systems. She also formed a new production and general management company, Whitbell Productions, which managed Paul Robeson on Broadway at The Golden, in association with Eric Krebs.