Oran Sandel, teacher and theater director
Oran Sandel, an actor, teacher and educator who formerly directed Living Stage Theatre Company, a community outreach arm of Washington’s Arena Stage, died Oct. 19 at his home in Silver Spring. He was 64.
The cause was melanoma, said his wife, Roberta Gasbarre, artistic director of Washington Revels and director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Discovery Theater.
For 24 years, including six years as co-director and director before stepping down in 2001, Mr. Sandel was a Living Stage staffer, acting and directing improvisational dramas at sites that included preschools, senior centers, prisons and facilities for people with disabilities.
During that time, he helped found a program called Children First, aimed at training and sensitizing preschool teachers to the techniques of learning through dramatic arts.
“Oran Sandel’s workshops and trainings touched hundreds of students and teachers,” Jane Freundel Levey, managing editor of the Historical Society of Washington’s Washington History magazine, said in an email. “He exposed them to the creative process of improvisation and the sheer joy of playing.”
Oran George Sandel was born in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 22, 1951. The son of a Foreign Service officer, he grew up in Brazil and Cambodia.
He graduated in 1974 from the Catholic University of America in Washington and for several years acted in community theater productions throughout the area, joining Living Stage in 1977.
Typically, a troupe of four to six actors would improvise a performance before an audience and then invite audience participation. At a correctional facility in Lorton, Va., he put on shows that gave inmates an opportunity to voice their feelings and concerns, and it led to the establishment of a prison theater company.
Other audiences might see themes acted out such as drug abuse, teenage suicide or pregnancy, mental illness or racism.
After Living Stage was phased out in 2002, Mr. Sandel became an independent educational theater artist, working with a variety of groups and schools. In January 2015, he was diagnosed with melanoma and given three months to live. For almost two years he survived, blogging regularly about the disease.
Survivors include his wife of 34 years and two children, Caelyn Gasbarre Sandel of Boston and Jamie Sandel of Silver Spring.