Ben Segal

ben segal
Ben Segal, 83, theatrical producer and founder of the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford, Connecticut, died Friday (December 27, 2002) at the Masonic Healthcare Center, Wallingford, after a brief illness. A resident of Wallingford for 42 years, Mr. Segal was born in Boston on May 9, 1919, to Frank and Rebecca Segal; the family moved to New Haven in 1924. Mr. Segal served with the United States Army in the South Pacific during World War II, and following his return to New Haven became General Manager of the Shubert Theatre, learning the craft of theatre from such masters as Henry Fonda, Richard Rodgers, Elia Kazan, Jerome Robbins, and Tennessee Williams. In 1948, Mr. Segal and Anthony Brady Farrell took over operations of New York's Mark Hellinger Theatre, with Mr. Segal overseeing more than 70 stage productions for the Farrell Organization. In 1951, Mr. Segal produced the award-winning 'Billy Budd', and the following year, with George Kaufman, co-produced the revival of Kaufman's 'Fancy Meeting You Again' starring Walter Matthau. Mr. Segal returned to Connecticut in 1954 to found Wallingford's Oakdale Theatre, exploring the then new concept of seasonal theatre-in-the-round. In partnership with Buster Bonoff, a second theatre was opened in Warwick, Rhode Island in 1955, and Mr. Segal soon co-developed others in Buffalo, New York, and Framingham, Mass. Mr. Segal went on to co-found the Musical Arena Theatre Association of America, which represented ownership or operating control of over twenty theatres throughout the country. Oakdale began as a 1,600 seat tent-theatre, presenting summer stock Equity musicals. Within a few years Mr. Segal elevated the stature of the theatre by bringing in such Hollywood and Broadway stars as Van Johnson, John Raitt, Angela Lansbury, Howard Keel, Debbie Reynolds, and Ray Milland to star in the stage productions. Always responsive to changes in public taste, in 1972 Mr. Segal expanded the theatre's capacity to 3,200 and replaced the tent with a permanent wood dome, turning Oakdale into the state's preeminent concert venue. Week-long engagements by artists such as Danny Kaye, Harry Belafonte, Tom Jones, Jerry Lewis, Engelbert Humperdinck, Tony Bennett, Liza Minnelli, Sergio Franchi, and Steve & Eydie eventually gave way to one-night performances ranging from singers Tina Turner, Kenny Rogers, to Huey Lewis, and comedians George Burns, George Carlin to Bill Cosby. Among the hundreds of artists who made their first Connecticut appearances on Oakdale's revolving stage were The Who, Cream, Led Zeplin, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Newhart, Eddie Murphy, Vince Gill, James Garner, and Reba McEntire. One of Mr. Segal's proudest accomplishment was the creation of the Oakdale Childrens' Theatre Series, that to this day remains a prominent part of Oakdale's programming. Few producers had as great a respect for talent of any variety as Mr. Segal, and as such, few producers were as respected by the artists themselves. In 1996, Mr. Segal saw the realization of his long-time dream for Oakdale when the theatre opened its doors as a new 5,000 seat year-round proscenium facility, with his wood dome proudly acting as the new theatre's lobby. Riverdance and Bruce Springsteen were soon to follow. While operating Oakdale, Mr. Segal's other activities included the creation of the Barnum Festival Theatre in Bridgeport; management of the Meriwether Post Pavilion in Maryland; concert presentations at the Hartford Civic Center, New Haven Coliseum, Palace theatres in both New Haven and Stamford, Woolsey Hall, The Bushnell and the Connecticut Tennis Center. In 1976, with attorney Emanuel Zimmer, Mr. Segal built the year-round Sunrise Theatre in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Segal was a founder and charter Commissioner of the Connecticut Commission on the Arts; was a member of the Friar's Club, the Quinnipiac Club, and the Masonic Order; and throughout his long career consistently served charitable organizations in the Greater New Haven area and State of Connecticut. Mr. Segal has been honored for his service to the state by Governor's Dempsey, Grasso, O'Neill, and Weicker. Mr. Segal's great passion beyond show business was photography, and his later years were spent traveling the world with wife Barbara, his friends, and his cameras. From the Beverly Hills Hotel to a village in Nepal or Ecuador, those who had the privilege to know Ben considered themselves fortunate, as he considered himself even to have simply met them - regardless of who they were. Mr. Segal is survived by his wife Barbara of Wallingford; son Beau, daughter-in-law Nancy and grandchildren Barrie and Milo of Woodbridge; daughter Rebecca of Los Angeles, California; son Mark of Portsmouth, New Hampshire; sister Shirley Abramson of Boca Raton, Florida. Pre-deceasing Mr. Segal were wife Clarice Cumbley Segal of Southport, England, and brother Maxwell of Hamden. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Clarice Segal Fund, Alzheimer's Resource Center, 1261 South Main Street, Plantsville, CT. 06479 or the Masonic Healthcare Center, P.O. Box 70, Wallingford, CT 06492. A Memorial Service open to all friends and family will be held at the Quinnipiac Club, 221 Church Street, New Haven (203-562-3147), at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 9th - cocktails, of course, to follow.

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  1. A dynamic and fascinating individual, Ben Segal will forever hold a special place in our hearts. It was an honor and a privilege to have known him and loved him and we will miss him terribly.

    • David Warner
      Many years later in reviewing history !!

      Beau I am sorry for your loss
      When I was in schoool with you and I worked at oskdale with you your father was
      Kind and like another father to me and introduced me to the arts and very fabulous and interesting people not to mentions tickets to the Beatles ,trips to New York,
      Thanks to him and also you I had experiences
      Which enriched my life and I saw him and your
      Mother as very loving parents who showed their love on everyone around! I am sure I am
      just one of thousands of people that your Father had left his mark on and this will be his
      Legacy from knowing him in their memories !

      David Warner
      340 473 8015

  2. Barb, We just wanted you to know we felt Ben with us durring the wedding service and most of all at the reception after. We love you Barb, April Jay and Savannah

  3. Ben Segal – .Legend in his own time.. A man who lived by the beat of his own heart. Thanks for helping me to shape my foundation as a man and follow dreams. Donald J. Camerato D\’Camm Ltd.

  4. Ben was not only someone to learn from, he was always such fun to spend time with. Thinking of You FJS

  5. By far the most special and genuine man we have ever met. Ben will turly be missed. However knowing Ben he is surly on an even greater adventure with works already in progress! Bless you for that Ben. And bless you Barbara for being his ture joy and for always taking such good care of such a special man! Barb, we share your broken heart and are here for you! All our love and blessings Georgia, James, Apirl,Jason, Savannah,Robert,Mandy,Lea, Skyler,Frank and Trevar

  6. Dear Rebecca and Beau Its been many years since I\’ve seen Ben, but wheneverI saw him he brought joy and laughter to me He was one of a kind.. I wont be able to celebrate his life with you next week,but I\’ll be thinking of him onthe 9th and of you two as well. My best wishes to you and the family

  7. I have fond memories of Ben and specially his children Beau and Rebecca because my children played with them at an early age. I will remember him for his talent in putting together such wonderful entertainment for the people in Connecticut and creating the wonderful Oakdale thetaer the gave us so much joy. My condolences to the family Sincerely Esther

  8. Mrs.Segal You know we all love you and we sure did love Mr. Segal he always made me laugh Love you Trevar J. Salva

  9. My hearfelt sympathy goes to all of the Segal family. Mr Segal was a great man. Not many of his kind left on this earth. He did great things in his life time, and had great children to help support him. You all have my deepest sympathy, prayers and love. Kathy

  10. My sincerest condolences to Mr. Segal\’s family. I have been out of touch with his family for many years but will always remember the time when Mr.Segal, his youngest son, Mark and I went out for Chinese food in New Haven after a theater performance. It was quite amusing. I have not been in touch with the family since about 1985 but the memories I have of the your family were that of joy and strength. Your family has always been part of my fondest memories of the years after my and Mark\’s graduations from Cheshire High and the Academy. May you always find strength in your family and friends at this difficult time. My love always, Kristin (Bauer) Russo formerly of Cheshire CT.

  11. Sincere sympathy to all. I have wonderful memories of working with everyone in .The Round.. Ben was a wonderful man. He will surely be missed. Love, Mary

  12. Sorry I can\’t be with you. My condolences to you. He was a great boss to work for. I will always have fond memories of my days at the Oakdale.

  13. To all of the Segal family, my thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time. My heart goes out especially to you Barb as I know you and Ben were each others lives. I will always have fond memories of Ben as both an employer and a friend. He will be sorely missed. My heartfelt sympathies are with you all. -Pam-

  14. to my segal family,we love you all-barb,beau,reb,mark,nancy,barrie and milo as we loved ben. i cannot be with you but murr will be to help in the celebration of the life of the last of the big spenders——-a closed era.our memories ,much to many to list–GOD SPEED

  15. We will always remember the good times we had together with you and your family along with Buster\’s family and Alan White and his crew. You were the greatest and will be very much missed.

  16. With Deepest Sympathy. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time. I have many fond memories of my years at the Oakdale working for Ben. He was a wonderful man.

  17. Without Ben we would not be in the business of theatre. He once said we were the merchant of emotions. Ben was the PT Barnum of our time. We will miss him. Our prayers are with the family.

  18. Barbie Doll and Family- so sorry to hear of Ben\’s death. Are thoughts and prayers are with you. Love Marilyn and Kevin

  19. Beau: It was a real honor to have met such a giant in the business. My sympathies are with you and Nancy. Sincerely, Mike Watt

  20. Dear Beau; Sincerest condolences to you and your family. I shall always treasure the times I talked with your father. Mark Davis WTNH-TV

  21. My heart is with you at this time of sorrow,but I have 49 years of wonderful memories of family and the,Irene

  22. My sympathies to the Segal family, especially you, Beau. My funniest memory of Ben Segal was when, as a young kid of 23, I locked my keys in the car one afternoon while at the Theatre and Ben begged and pleaded with me to give the police officer the .okay. to shoot the lock off with his gun, because it was a slow afternoon and we needed to .liven things up.. Beau- Your dad always lived life to the fullest and showed me that you can always have fun and still accomplish important things in life. I have followed that philosophy to this day, with no regrets. Lisa and I have you in our thoughts and prayers. God Bless. Keith & Lisa Valliere Plainville, CT

  23. With deepest sympathy. Even though I am unable to be there my thoughts, prayers and love are with all of you. – Mary Acampora-LeClair

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