Bentley’s theater endeavors earn her $20,000 fellowship from Regional Arts Commission

Theater professor Kathryn Bentley is among the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission's fellows photo credit RAC

Theater professor, director, actor and community activist Kathryn Bentley has reason to celebrate in dramatic fashion–she and nine other artists received a $20,000 fellowship from the St. Louis Regional Arts Commission (RAC).  The 10 were chosen from an applicant pool of 265 submissions.

Bentley said she was stunned when she received notification of the award in November.

“I’m honored and ecstatic. It’s a phenomenal opportunity. I am kind of speechless,” Bentley said.

RAC’s “ultimate goal is free artists up to do their work in order to make St. Louis a more culturally (and economically) vibrant city,” according to the website.

Roseann Weiss, RAC director of community and public arts, said the organization has been long familiar with Bentley’s involvement in the community, such as with the teen program CHIPS in Motion and the Community Arts Training Institute, in addition to her various roles in theater.

“We’ve known her for a lot of different roles so when the committee chose her, we were delighted,” Weiss said.

Theater and dance Department Chair Jim Wulfsong said Bentley is one of the department’s most “outgoing and instrumental professors and educators.”

“She performs professionally at Black Rep and she brings that experience to her students. She also has been running a summer abroad program in Suriname and she brought a director from Suriname to direct and they performed a piece called ‘A Mato Mosaic,’” Wulfsong said.  “We couldn’t have been prouder of her for having been recognized for this award.”

The fellowship program, according to Bentley, shows meaningful support for artists in the St. Louis region.

“I’m just so excited for the possibilities of what this means for St. Louis. A lot of students [in theater] at SIUE go to Chicago. This fellowship proves that St. Louis supports artists,” Bentley said.

Bentley said her submission consisted of writing about her artist’s philosophy and how the fellowship would assist her work.

The fellowship allows Bentley to continue her theater research and writing; and to further study acting disciplines such as theatre voice technique with master teachers on the East Coast.

She also plans more performances and is working toward a solo performance about women of color’s perceptions of their bodies across cultures and traditions internationally.

The solo performance, according to Bentley, is an opportunity for people to dialogue about women’s body issues and to heal from and accept these issues.

Bentley said she engages in theater because she thinks “it’s an excellent way to get people to think about things in a way they wouldn’t have before.”

“Every piece I choose to direct and be in I hope for some message to be attached to it,” Bentley said. “Because of the freedom at SIUE to direct, I choose theater pieces that have an impact on social issues.”

The most rewarding program for Bentley to direct at SIUE is the Black Theater Workshop held late January.

“The [annual] Black Theater Workshop involves students across different disciplines so that’s great and the fact they are so involved with creating the production. It really helps to develop leadership skills in the students,” Bentley said.

In 2012, Bentley performed in “On Golden Pond,” by The Black Rep in St. Louis and said she enjoys acting equally as well as directing, though for different reasons.

“I felt that the play did deliver a powerful message about family and forgiveness. You don’t make those artistic decisions that shape the message when you’re performing in the play. You’re part of delivering the message,” she said.

Bentley has performed in commercials in New York for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and peanut butter products. She also played a nurse in the soap opera series “All My Children.”

Theater professor Kathryn Bentley performed in "On Golden Pond" with the St. Louis Black Rep in 2012 Photo credit Kathryn Bentley






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