Alum Annette Bening returns to Little Theatre for talk with students

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Photo of Annette Bening

Veteran movie star Annette Bening gave an inspiring talk on acting and the arts in a familiar place — the Little Theatre — on October 10.

“So many things are running through my mind right now. I’m kind of emotional to tell you the truth, because I spent a lot of time in this theatre,” she said. “.... I wanted to first say that the reason I feel kind of emotional coming here is because I was you.”

Bening is an alumna of the Theatre Arts Department, class of 1980, and remembers her time fondly. During the talk, the four-time Academy Award nominee recounted a lecture she herself had attended as a student, when the late American Conservatory Theatre founder Bill Ball spoke. Ball was later to become her mentor at ACT, where she launched her acting career.

Laura Wayth, an actress and assistant professor of Theatre Arts, interviewed Bening. The session included a Q&A with students as well. During the conversation Bening addressed various topics with aplomb, including tips on auditioning and thoughts on her personal process, often standing up and walking around the stage to demonstrate techniques.

She implored students to keep a positive attitude and always have a strong belief in their acting.

“Doubt is something you just never get rid of, so don’t even try. Just stop right now,” Bening said. “Insecurity, you’ll always have it. So in a way, I’m saying that to reassure you and to encourage you, not to discourage you.”

She also suggested how students can talk to parents who might not approve of a future career in the arts. “You tell them, ‘I understand you have my best interest at heart, but I’m going toward this path,’” she said.

Bening, who has four children with her husband, actor/director Warren Beatty, also discussed the ways in which her career has changed since starting a family, stating that she often decides on projects based on whether or not film fits into her family’s schedule. The filming location of her most recent film The Kids are All Right, was changed from New York to Los Angeles to accommodate her availability as well as the original vision of director Lisa Cholodenko (B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies, ’87).

Though best known for her roles in movies such as American Beauty and Bugsy, Bening still adores her first love: theatre. Earlier this year she performed and directed Ruth Draper’s Monologues at Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, garnering critical acclaim.

“The intellectual size that you have to possibly reach for, combined with incredible emotional content — That’s what gets me about the theatre,” she said.

—Lynn Brown

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