Ben Segal, 83; Pioneered Summer Theater-in-the-Round

From Staff and Wire Reports

Ben Segal, 83, a theatrical producer and theater founder who pioneered the concept of summer theater-in-the-round in the 1950s, died Dec. 27 after a brief illness in Wallingford, Conn.

The Boston-born Segal became general manager of the Shubert Theater in New Haven, Conn., in the mid-1940s after serving in the Army in the South Pacific during World War II.

In 1948, he and Anthony Brady Farrell took over operation of the Mark Hellinger Theater in New York City. In the next six years, Segal oversaw more than 70 Broadway productions for the Farrell Organization.


He also co-produced an award-winning production of “Billy Budd” and a production of George Kaufman’s “Fancy Meeting You Again” with Walter Matthau.

In 1954, Segal returned to Connecticut and founded the Oakdale Theater, a 1,200-seat tent in a Wallingford alfalfa field.

After struggling the first several seasons with putting on popular musicals, Segal began a successful formula of featuring Broadway and Hollywood stars such as Danny Kaye, Ginger Rogers and Debbie Reynolds in productions.

A decade later, he brought the Doors, Cream, the Who and other rock headliners to the theater before replacing the tent in 1972 with a fixed dome that sat 3,200.

In 1996, the Oakdale became a 5,000-seat proscenium theater.