University of Montana

Q & A Series : Elizabeth Bennett

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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)

Montana Repertory Theatre Celebrating its 50th Season!

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1967: the year of LOVE, Flower Power, 490,000 troops in Viet Nam. Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, LBJ, Twiggy, the Six Day War, Riots in American cities, The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde. The cost of a new house $14,240, a new car $2,700, the First Super Bowl, AND…

The Montana Repertory Theatre was founded.

Visionary theatre professional and professor Bo Brown founded the Montana Repertory Theatre to bring theatre to rural Montana using students from the training program at the University of Montana. The first productions in 1967 were The Devils Disciple, Julius Caesar, and She Stoops to Conquer. There then followed a decade of growth and development with productions of world classics. In 1977 James Kriley, in an audacious move, converted the company to professional status committing the company to hiring professional actors, directors, designers and technicians to work alongside University of Montana students. The company then toured mostly western states. In 1996 with their production of To Kill A Mockingbird, the Montana Rep went national, touring from California to Maine, thus completing the process begun in 1967. The Montana Repertory Theatre is now one of the premier national touring companies in the country, logging more miles and more performance dates than any other professional touring company in the USA, keeping alive the valuable tradition of touring professional theatre to all corners of the nation.

In 2017 The Montana Repertory Theatre will stage Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Parkthe fifth of Simon’s iconic plays the Montana Rep has produced. This show will premier in January in Missoula and tour nationally into the spring. Barefoot was first produced on Broadway just over 50 years ago, and the Montana Rep is delighted to produce this play in our 50th year!

The Role of the Montana Repertory Theatre, a professional theatre imbedded in the training program in the School of Theatre and Dance at The University of Montana, is unique in that the school and the theatre are intertwined in a mutually supportive partnership, pairing professional actors, directors and designers with our students, giving the students invaluable exposure and opportunities in the professional practice of making theatre.

In 2017 we will be celebrating this unique and very successful experiment begun 50 years ago. The Montana Repertory Theatre remains vital, visionary and strong; the dream begun many years ago is alive and well, as we continue to create quality professional theatre, for the nation, the region, the state and Missoula, while supporting opportunities and training for new generations of Montana students.