All My Sons

Q & A Series : Elizabeth Bennett


Over the next several weeks we will be releasing a fantastic series of Q & A’s with both students and professionals who have worked with Montana Repertory Theatre. We can’t think of a better way to help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of MRT than to hear from those who’ve made it all possible. There have been nearly a thousand actors, designers, directors, and staff employed by the Rep over our 50 years. Here are a few of them.

We asked the same questions to a handful of Rep family members. The responses are obviously unique to each person – but they help to highlight the range of experiences offered by Montana Rep. You’ll read hilarious anecdotes, success stories, and a pervasive gratitude. We are proud to have worked with each and every one of these folks.

Beginning our Q & A series is Elizabeth Bennett! Having begun her work with the Rep during her Junior Year at the University of Montana, she is now transitioning into the professional realm. Most recently, you may have seen her in Bronté to the Future, this fall’s Educational Outreach Tour. Enjoy!

  1. What was special about the Montana Repertory Theatre experience you had?

To me, what was special about my time with the Rep is that it resembled ascending a staircase of experience; I started with volunteering for the Biloxi Blues gala. I worked in the office as a student, where I got to know Greg and Salina and Teresa, all wonderful people. That led to me being cast in the Rep’s first Visions and Voices project, Circle Mirror Transformation. Then I got cast in Gatsby one year and in All My Sons the next; I just finished my first Educational Outreach tour, the last of which many can attest is one of the most challenging and enriching Rep tours. I couldn’t have done any of these adventures without the experience of the one before. It all fell exactly into place.

  1. Where did your work with Montana Rep come in your career? Student? Equity? What effect did it have on your trajectory?

The Rep came into my career exactly when it needed to; as a junior. It jump started my attitude as an adult working actor earlier than it might for most college students, for which I consider myself extremely lucky.

  1. The Rep has long since had a tradition of producing American Canonical texts. What is your favorite classic? And why?

I’ve only seen a handful of the Rep’s canonical pieces, but my favorite of the ones I’ve seen has got to be Biloxi Blues. I remember being blown away by the comedy of Neil Simon and the ensemble of my peers.

  1. If you could tell a student actor hoping to work for The Rep one thing – what would it be?

Get involved and be thankful for every opportunity. I remember helping at the Biloxi gala and thinking, “Someday it’s gonna be me going on tour.” Interest in working for the Rep goes far beyond expression at auditions; being interested means helping behind the scenes, volunteering, helping with Colony; be a hard worker and show passion for every facet of the theatre, not just the spotlight. I would also encourage any student actor to give the Educational Outreach tour special attention; it is an extremely rewarding experience teaching kids theatre.

  1. Looking back on your work with Montana Repertory Theatre, which singular memory stands out the most?

The most recent memory (they are too numerous for me to narrow down to one!) that stands out is performing Bronte to the Future! for a school in Rosebud, Montana; their whole school was there, only a hundred or so kids K-12, and they were enamored with the show and laughed like it was their job. It was one of the best moments of my performing life. 

(Lizzy, right, with Hannah Appell as the Bronté sisters)

Variety, Stamina, and Listening: A Student Testimonial


Mason Wagner, headshotA two-week run of a university production is one thing. A four-month, seventy-four performance run spread out over 16,000 miles of American Landscape is, well, slightly different. As a student, I was lucky enough to have toured twice nationally with the Montana Repertory Theatre (The Great Gatsby, All My Sons). I think back on them all the time – the memories are really strong. To say these were formative experiences feels like a gross understatement. Working with The Rep was not only my introduction to professional theatre, but also, my foray into the real craft of acting. I learned stamina, integrity, and gained a new sense of how to listen.

When cast in a university production, I had the privilege of experimenting with different theories and practices. For a while, at least. You get to throw different ideas, tactics, and methods from your acting training at the wall to see what sticks. But that whole process is balanced with other scene studies, classes, and a fundamental understanding that you are playing to the audience of a very specific community. You get to know this audience very well (but, I mean, most of them are your peers). And often, you’d walk away from these two-week stands and finally feel ready to open – like previews had ended. It goes by fast.

By the end of my first two-weeks on the road, I’d already performed in ten different towns in Montana (41 venues remained). It was an exhausting muscular experience. I was learning about different energy reserves I didn’t know existed. Because every audience was different, every performance was different. I had known this in theory, but it soon became very real to me. Theaters ranged from converted chapels on college campuses to state-of-the-art performing arts centers in big cities. Often, the set had to be modified to fit a specific theatre, so that subsequently all movement on stage would be adjusted. At the company meeting before every show, we’d talk through all the alterations for the night. This was actually terrifying at first. I’d never faced such immediate problem solving on stage. But then, this variety, this problem solving kept me on my toes, alive to each moment. And what I didn’t realize until later was that it was opening the heart of the play to me a little more every performance.

There were no classes, no professors, just this life on the road. Drive, build, perform, strike, sleep, and repeat. The rhythm of it stands out in my memory as somehow incredibly important – the breathing pattern of the tour, I suppose. But here it is; here’s why touring with the Montana Rep is important. There is no better way to teach student actors how to tell the stories engrained in the American psyche, than by sending them traversing across its literal and cultural landscape.  In having to present the same show to audiences across the country, from rural Iowa to New York City – the great challenge of making it mean something to them both — I learned about our culture, the ways we need theatre and stories, and most importantly, I learned a great deal about the craft of acting. Every show is different. Fundamentally, I learned that acting requires an especially attuned listening, and like a muscle, it is this listening and reacting that touring with The Rep helped me to develop.