Alumni Spotlight: Gelsey Bell

Gelsey Bell
I grew up in a small town in California surrounded by music, visual art, dance, and theatre. I wanted to attend a liberal arts college in close proximity to New York City, and where my artist endeavors would be developed. I studied directing in theatre, vocal performance in music, and earned a philosophy minor. I directed the very heady play Acadia, by Tom Stoppard, as my senior project. At Lehigh I was given the space and support to try a lot of things in addition to directing – set design, acting, sound design, stage management, and composing music for theatre. I went from Lehigh to NYU where I completed my doctorate in Performance Studies in 2015. My career in the experimental scene has three main components that were all influenced by my experience at Lehigh; as a performance studies scholar, as a composer, and as a performer across a range of genres. I often use my theatre training to assess lighting, enunciation, staging, to edit audio, and to critique the narrative arc of a performance. My music compositions take into account physical posture, dramaturgical aspects, and social commentary. I exist within a community of New York artists that makes work at the nexus of music and theatre. In 2017 I was honored with the Foundation of Contemporary Arts award in sound and music. This award is a grant of $40,000 that an artist can use in any way they desire. I am quite young to have received this prestigious award -- which is a once-in-a-lifetime recognition. On Broadway, I performed the role of “Princess Mary/Opera Singer/Maidservant” in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. I recently released an album called Ciphony, based on music I wrote with composer John King for a week of performances of Merce Cunningham’s choreography at the Joyce Theater. An art installation called Hakim’s Tale, which I created with visual artist Erik Ruin, was presented at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. A dance piece with choreographer Anna Sperber will perform at the Chocolate Factory in March 2018. Another dance piece called shuffleyamamba that I’m creating with choreographer Yasuko Yokoshi will premiere in Japan in May 2019. For that piece, I spent a month in Kyoto studying Noh theater and music. Theatre has such a special magic of bringing people together, which is truly a gift!