PASSINGS: John Dye, Ellen Stewart, Del Reisman, Irene Jerison
John Dye

Actor best known for 'Touched by an Angel'

John Dye, 47, an actor best known for his role as Andrew in the long-running CBS-TV series "Touched by an Angel," was found dead Monday at his home in San Francisco, the San Francisco medical examiner's office confirmed. His brother Jerre told the Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis, Tenn., that Dye died of a heart attack.

Dye became a regular on "Touched by an Angel" in 1995 for its second season and starred opposite Roma Downey and Della Reese as heavenly messengers sent to help humans through difficult times. Dye's character functioned primarily as an angel of death at first.

"When you see me in my white suit and I start glowing, you know somebody's toast," Dye joked in a 1999 interview with the Commercial Appeal.

But as the show, which ended its run in 2003, evolved, the handsome and compassionate Andrew took on more duties as an angelic caseworker.

"I like the role because death isn't something we talk about much in America," Dye wrote in a 1997 compilation of "Touched by an Angel" scripts. "As a nation, we find it difficult to mourn or grieve, labeling tears a sign of weakness. Because of that, Andrew is a rather loud character, helping us face something we would rather ignore."

Dye also appeared in the spinoff "Promised Land" and had regular roles in the prime-time TV series "Hotel Malibu," "Jack's Place" and "Tour of Duty."

Born Jan. 31, 1963, in Amory, Miss., he attended Mississippi State University and what is now the University of Memphis, studying to become a lawyer before switching to drama. He left college early to pursue an acting career but later returned to finish his bachelor's degree.

Ellen Stewart

Founder of Off-Off-Broadway's La MaMa

Ellen Stewart, 91, founder and director of the Off-Off-Broadway pioneering group La MaMa Experimental Theater Club, died Thursday at New York's Beth Israel Hospital after an extended illness, said Mia Yoo, the theater's co-artistic director.

During Stewart's 49-year tenure, La MaMa presented about 3,000 productions, hosted artists from more than 70 countries and earned countless cultural awards. She was the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant in 1985 and a 2006 Tony Honor for Excellence in Theater.

"She was extremely nurturing to young theatrical talent and also very open to new ideas and inventive theater," said Brenda Smiley, an actress, writer and journalist who worked with Stewart and remained close. "She allowed people to go beyond and to break barriers in a lot of ways."

Stewart was born in 1919 in Chicago and grew up there and in Louisiana. She began her career in New York as a fashion designer and started La MaMa in 1961 when she rented a tiny basement in lower Manhattan for $55 a month to provide her brother and his playwright friends with a space to showcase their plays. Already nicknamed "Mama," one of her actors suggested La MaMa as the name for her theater.

La MaMa moved several times and took up residence in its current space on East 4th Street in 1969. In 1974, the company acquired a second space, the Annex, down the street.

Theater spokesman Sam Rudy said Stewart was instrumental in introducing to American audiences some of the world's most influential artists, including Andrei Serban, Tom O'Horgan, Sam Shepard, Lanford Wilson, Harvey Fierstein, Maria Irene Fornes, Tom Eyen, Jean Claude van Itallie and countless others.

Del Reisman

Longtime TV writer