By Shareen Crosby
Many actors find themselves directing, producing, serving as board members, and basically doing the never-ending behind the scenes work that it takes to keep community theatre alive and well. But at the heart of most of these folks is, plain and simple, their love of acting.
Kevin T. Bennett is no exception. Bennett, an Anchorage theatre actor, director and producer and Anchorage Community Theatre (ACT) Board Member, played his first role as the “Oreo middle man in a school skit” way back when. When asked how far back when, Bennett replies, “Once they get down your age, that’s the box they put you in. People who make a living in this business will never tell you the truth about their age.” So let’s just say Bennett is somewhere between 20 and 80 years old.
Bennett is used to playing characters most of the time; that’s characters as in eccentrics. Bennett grew up in a tough atmosphere, so it may come naturally. “Acting was an opportunity to be someplace else and be someone else for a while,” he says.
His advice to new actors? Simple. “Just do it,” he says. “At one point while acting, I was pretty sure that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, and it seemed to be working, but I would be told different things from different directors, things I didn’t agree with. Then I read Stanislavski’s book on acting* and it was as if I’d written it. I read what he wrote and I thought, ‘That’s what I said!’ It’s not great science.”
Bennett adds, “If a person has the desire to act, the best place to start, in our community, is ACT. And if acting is what a person wants to do, I recommend they, regardless of their fears, jump in head first. Watch and learn from everyone, and always be courteous, generous, and supportive of the process.”
Bennett has acted in more than a dozen plays at ACT alone. Add in the other theatres across Alaska and that number is as high as fifty or more. He’s also played parts in the Lower 48, as well as appeared in some short, independent and feature films. Still, he considers himself “a two-bit hack.”
Bennett’s most recent role was playing George in Perseverance Theatre’s production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (Juneau, September 14-October 7, 2012; Anchorage, October 26-November 4, 2012), directed by Art Rotch. “It was a planned risk,” Bennett says. “I have a business in Anchorage, a lovely wife, responsibilities. But the play itself is too good to pass up. Being gone for a couple months isn’t that big of a deal. Driving the motor home down and living in it for two months may have been a bad decision, however.”
Bennett says that it was rewarding playing George. “A fellow spoke to me after the show one night and said it was the first time he actually felt empathy for both George and Lennie,” he said. “What I get out of theatre is knowing that the audience got something out of it. There’s something good about being able to share an author’s story. If you pursue acting to that end, you can do good things for people.”
“Every character I play is part me,” says Bennett. “There are things I like about George and things I don’t. But that’s true of all of us. Perhaps one of my favorite roles was playing Saunders in Lend Me a Tenor (UAA, 1993-1994, under the direction of Tom Skore). I had a lot of fun with that part. It was a wild, manic, insane marathon.”
Bennett’s rehearsals for his next role, playing Joseph in ACT’s My Three Angels, began just as Of Mice and Men was wrapping up its Anchorage run. Why the rush? “For a long time, I didn’t have any time to do any shows,” says Bennett. “Then I got roped into doing one several years ago and I realized how much I missed it. If artistic individuals are lucky, we’ll be able to participate in our art. I enjoy acting that much.”
Of his role as Joseph in My Three Angels, Bennett says it’s a fun, farcical piece. “Joseph is a swindler, a con artist” says Bennett. “The other two convicts are murderers. Joseph perpetuated a scam with ‘bottled air’ and the judge was one the stock holders.”
When asked how long he plans to enjoy his craft, Bennett replies, “I’ll keep working in theatre until I can’t.” Lucky us!
My Three Angels is a Christmas comedy set in French Guiana, a region where on Christmas Eve the temperature has graciously dropped to 104 degrees. A family faces a dire situation, but their plight is heard by three angels up above -- actually three warm-hearted convicts on work release working on the family's roof. The convicts are passionate believers in true justice, and do their best to set matters right. It’s a captivating and comedic holiday treasure also known as "We're No Angels."
My Three Angels is showing at Anchorage Community Theatre, 1133 East 70th Avenue, November 23-December 23, 2012. Please visit our Web site at www.actalaska.org or call 868-4913 for information or reservations.
*Konstantin Stanislavski’s trilogy on acting includes “An Actor Prepares”, “Building a Character”, and “Creating a Role.”