Rickards Graduate Bell Stars in off-Broadway Play
By Kathryn N. Jones
Tallahassee native Patrice Bell is no stranger to the spot light.
Bell realized her love for theater at a young age while participating in different activities around the city of Tallahassee.
“I loved Tallahassee. It was a great place to grow up because it has that small-town feel but also the influence of the colleges and with it being the state capital brings a lot of traffic to the city,” Bell said.
Bell said she believes Tallahassee really nurtured her development and positioned her so she could be competitive for performance arts programs in college.
“When I got into high school, I really started participating in some things that would affect me for the rest of my life, such as the drama program at Rickards High School, the Irene C. Edmonds Theater Camp at Florida A&M and Girl Scouts,” Bell said.
Valencia Matthews, the dean of FAMU’s Department of Social Sciences and Humanities, remembers Bell fondly.
“Patrice was always a very nice person with a open personality,” Matthews said. “She was always very open, warm and excited and really just wanted to do theater.”
Bell graduated from the International Baccalaureate program at Rickards and received a full scholarship to any school of her choice in the state of Florida.
With her scholarship, Bell decided to attend the University of Central Florida to study theater.
“It was great to be in a state school and also not to far from home studying exactly what I wanted to study,” Bell said.
After receiving her union card from UCF, Bell moved to New York City where she began to launch her professional career. She participated in a lot of theater productions around the county and region.
Carrie Gerhard had the opportunity of being Bell’s babysitter at a young age and when Bell got older she began to babysit Gerhard’s children.
“We had a theater class in afterschool and my husband wrote the play with her as the main character and she played the leading role,” Gerhard said. “So that was her debut.”
Gerhard and her family have attended some of Bell’s performances in New York.
Bell’s current project, “Office Politics,” is a play written by Marcy Lovitch about an incident she had while working in the professional world.
Bell plays the only woman of color – and the only African-American – working in the office. The play revolves around a racial statement made by one of her coworkers in a joking manner that makes her the butt of the joke.
“Office Politics” was first done in a series of stage readings last year and the playwrights partnered with Longview Theater Company to bring the play off Broadway.
“I think it’s always good to raise a conversation because we still face uncomfortable situations in offices and we always have to realize that it’s not okay to say things in passing and just as a country we need to continue to have discussion s on race to create an awareness,” said Bell.
Bell says the play will spur that discussion.
Bell now splits her time between New York City and Los Angeles working on different projects.
“Wherever I can latch on to a great project I’m all about it. I love to support new projects and new artists,” Bell said.
Some of Bell’s projects include some musicals, a production of “The Wiz” and some voiceovers. She is also one of the co-founders of a vocal ensemble located in New York City called, Bending Thread.
“Office Politics” opens in New York on June 11.