A Star is Born: 10th Grade English Teacher Mrs. Benson Wins Acting Award
By: Drew Huddleston
Mrs. Benson is a revered English and mythology teacher, yet many may not know that she is a talented actress. So talented that this past October, she won a Pittsburgh New Works Festival Donna Award for her performance in the off-Broadway show, Charlotte’s Revival.
“The Pittsburgh New Works Festival is actually an international festival that invites playwrights from around the world to submit original works. People choose from among those plays, and local theater companies adopt one and produce them,” Benson explained about the festival.
Although Benson has acted since high school, she reignited her passion upon auditioning on a whim, and landed a major role. From there, she began going out for as many roles as she could. Aside from the critical acclaim it has brought her, acting has also affected the way Benson analyzes text and teaches her classes.
“We need to think about things like acting choices and staging and costumes and stage design. Having more experience with those elements of theater I think really makes me a better teacher because I’m understanding more than just the words,” Benson stated. This is especially true for her unit on Shakespere’s Macbeth.
Benson’s experience playing Lady Macduff was one of her favorites as it helped her to “understand the play in an entirely new way.”
This year, Benson starred as the title character of Charlotte’s Revival. The play tells the story of a mother dealing with the death of her son, and learning to cope by immersing herself in the world of classic films. The role was a challenging one, but Benson was up to the task.
“I wanted to try to humanize her as much as possible so she didn’t seem like she was a stereotype of mental illness, but she felt like a really complex, beautiful human character who was just trying to do the best she could.”
Benson, along with the cast and crew of her show and other selected shows, was invited to a glamorous gala at Carnegie Hall, where the nominees were announced and the winners were awarded. Much to her surprise, Benson was awarded the Best Leading Actress Donna Award.
“I was shocked but I have to say it meant so much to me because this play meant so much to me, so it was just the perfect way to end a process that I was very sad to let go. I just felt so honored and so grateful.”
Mrs. Benson always has and will be an incredibly special teacher. Now, we can recognize her as an incredible teacher as well as an incredible, award-winning actress.