A Broadway actor who appeared in The Phantom of the Opera and War Horse has been found dead in Central Park in what officials say is a suicide.
Harlan Bengel was found hanging from an overpass in the park in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the New York Post reported. A passerby discovered the 45-year-old man’s body at 5:50 a.m. on Friday at the Winterdale Arch near Central Park West and West 82nd Street.
A park worker also saw the man’s body.
“He hung himself. Right off the railing at the edge of the arch,” the parks worker told the New York Post. “I saw a long orange cord. He had tied a plastic bag around his head, too.”
Aside from his work on Broadway, Harlan Bengel was known as an accomplished ballet dancer, having worked with the San Antonio Metro Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet, and Metropolitan Ballet in New York. He also appeared with famed tenor Placido Domingo in a televised gala from the Washington National Opera, the San Antonio Metro Ballet noted.
This is not the first time that a Broadway actor’s suicide has garnered national attention. As the New York Post‘s Page Six reported last year, actor Jeff Loeffelholz committed suicide after friends said he was “bullied” by directors of the Broadway musical Chicago. Loeffelholz had been a cast member on the play for 22 years, but friend said the directors put him through a “tortuous” rehearsal in June in an effort to force him to quit the show. They said Jeff was forced to sing the same song repeatedly, and was told, “You always do it wrong.”
Loeffelholz was found dead a week later in what authorities said was a suicide, and producers of the play hired an attorney to look into the situation.
Some on Broadway said that actors are often mistreated by directors and producers and treated as disposable, which can lead to mental health challenges for the actors.
“No one can directly blame anyone for something like suicide, but this treatment is kind of like an old-school Broadway scenario where there seems to be a disposable amount of talent that allows people to treat people like this,” an unnamed Broadway insider told Page Six. “When you’re loyal to a show like that, it’s not celebrated. It can actually make you unhireable. It’s a strange thing.”
A 45-year-old Broadway actor who performed in 'Phantom of the Opera' and 'War Horse' was found hanging from a Central Park archway in an apparent suicide.https://t.co/sYsO8fkrLd— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) May 4, 2019
Police said Harlan Bengel had a known history of mental illness, and a suicide note was found in his pocket.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For readers outside the U.S., visit Suicide.org; or Befrienders Worldwide for international resources you can use to find help.