DA grad wins prestigious theatre award
The Helen Hayes Awards are some of the nation’s most prestigious awards, honoring extraordinary achievement within the Washington D.C. area professional theatres. Through a rigorous adjudication process, the work of theatre artists is evaluated and tabulated to identify those whose work will be recognized as outstanding. The awards bring together theatre lovers and theatre makers by celebrating the collective efforts of the region’s dynamic theatre community. Named in honor of the “First Lady of American Theatre,” the awards have been applauding the work of theatre professionals who are admired and appreciated for the past thirty-one years. They are the equivalent of the Tony Awards for the DC Theatre Community.
In April of 2015, Jacksonville native and remarkable Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DA) alumnus Wayne Bennett received the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in August Wilson’s play Seven Guitars. Previous award winners include Cate Blanchett, Christopher Saul, and James MacArthur. Bennett graduated from DA in 2006 and went on to attend the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSTA), an arts conservatory based in Winston-Salem. “Out of over seven-hundred applicants, they accept twenty-five people and I am grateful to have been one of them,” he says. That is where he met Michele Shay, Tony Award-winning actress in 1996 for her lead role in the same play.
After graduating from college, Bennett moved to Los Angeles, staying in close contact with Michele. She called him one afternoon to request he send a video monologue for the play she was directing, but Bennett was reluctant because he was in the middle of recording an album at the time. Although he is a gifted actor, Bennett is also a talented and soulful musician and he was devoted to seeing the new album to fruition. But, something told him he should tape the monologue and send it to Shay. A year later, he was in Washington DC at the Signature Theatre, working with No Rules Theatre Company, giving the performance of a lifetime in the acclaimed play.
When you ask Bennett who inspired him most as an actor, without hesitation he credits his instructors at Douglas Anderson. “They are concerned with [giving students] the tools, skills and work ethic to succeed at college, and in your career,” he says. Growing up in Brentwood, daily he witnessed the effects of drugs and violence in the low-income area he lived in. He admittedly had a bad temper, as a child, and got into trouble quite a bit himself. His 4th-grade teacher finally sat him down for a heart-to-heart and told him, “You’re too talented to behave this way.” That conversation empowered Bennett to sign up for a tap dance class. His talent and warm spirit carried him to LaVilla School of the Arts for junior high, then on to DA for high school.
Written by Laura Riggs