Being memorably quotable is the type of characteristic whetted through years of experience and hours upon hours spent turning that experience over in cupped hands until a good quote finally emerges as free and pure and real as the white rabbit from the hat of a magician. It also perhaps takes a person with a knack for rhetoric. Whatever it takes, Mary Bennett has it.
During one of Reno’s recent bitter afternoons, Bennett lounged in a comfy forest green couch at Dreamer’s, the café below her apartment in the Riverside Artists’ lofts, so that we could have a little tête-à-tête. During our interview, she paused once to chat with one of her neighbors, who was passing out of the café's glass doors. “I love talking to my downtown homeless neighbors. They’ve been here longer than many people have, living on the bench next to the river or wherever else."As one of Reno’s resident artists, Bennett is very active in the Brüka Theatre community, acting, directing and supporting plays each and every season since she merged her own theater company with Brüka’s five years ago—"It’s a ridiculous profession, and that suits me fine.” Bennett also gets to take her art to local schools, teaching students about her career, a career she aspired to when she was 8 years old.
Bennett recently played the part of Woman in Brüka’s A Christmas Carol.
“With Christmas Carol, I got to do all my bad accents, I got to play an ingénue, which I will never get to do, I played a couple of men, that’s a dream come true. I worked with amazing people. My dream play would be to do more of that. It was magic, and I didn’t expect it.”
Looking completely at ease in her own fair skin, her pale pink glossy lips and long, wavy bursting-red hair (there was also the green wool army coat, the scarf that reached to her toes and the black-and-white striped witch socks), Bennett talked about what she loves in life and what she loves about the Reno community, minus all the standard “ums,” “wells,” “likes” and “hmms” that bog down many people’s speech.
“With acting, you’re never finished. … I don’t want to feel like I’ve done it all. I want to still feel like a beginner, to always feel like there’s something to learn.”
Part of always learning means that Bennett plays the part of director sometimes. She is currently directing An Evening of Durang, a compilation of some of Christopher Durang’s bizarre and insightful comedies because, as she informed me, you need to do comedies in the winter.
“Sometimes you have to step up and create on another level instead of having people create around you … I’m really fond of Durang because he compares his writing to the comedy of Carol Burnett and to the satire of Monthy Python. It’s extreme comedy and parody, yet there are smidgens of genius that are funny, that are true, and you want to cheer for it.”
I wondered if Bennett realized she as full of these smidgens of genius herself. I thought I should have brought a tape recorder instead of taking notes. I could have given the tape to her when I was finished, so she could hear her own words played chastely back. So many astute things to say about theater and about life:
“Theater feeds the ego in embarrassing and pretentious ways. It makes you keep raising the bar. It’s part of community.""Actors freak out. Directors freak out. I love those moments. I freak out. Everybody always says it’s the worst experience of their life, but it’s not.""So many people spend their existence waiting at home for their big break, instead of putting creativity out there. Don’t aspire to something you feel you’ll never be.”
“I think all my worst experiences have been humorous, no explosions, no deaths.”
“With theater, it’s amazing what happens to you and the people around you and the space … we’re all moved, and my heart is open. My God, I’m a simple woman."