Now in their senior year at UC Santa Cruz, Bene’t Benton is looking forward to pursuing a career in theater with the goal of getting leadership experience and also writing and developing a solo theatrical piece that they can use towards ultimately being admitted to graduate school.
As a theater arts major with a minor in Black Studies, Bene’t also has a background in spoken word poetry and has performed throughout California, including at Dodger Stadium, the Pantages Theatre (Hollywood), the Women of UTA, March for Our Lives LA, and public schools all over Los Angeles. They originally chose to study theater arts due to attending a performing arts high school that specialized in theater.
“I grew up in Carson, California within Los Angeles County,” they say. “I have four sisters (two dogs and two cats) and two brothers (both human). I come from a small working-class family. My parents were always visionaries with big dreams for me that typically had to do with STEM, but I surprised them when I began getting involved with theater arts and spoken word poetry.”
Even so, as a child Bene’t actually wanted to be an astronaut and, starting when she was just six years old, her dad taught her about all of the planets in the solar system and they would watch satellite launches together. “I'm kind of far from pursuing a career as an astronaut, but maybe one day I can portray an astronaut in a play or movie,” they say.
Bene’t set their sights on UC Santa Cruz, not only for its incredible natural beauty but also because of its focus on social justice issues. They wanted to be far enough away from home to push their comfort zone while still being in California. It was also important for them to build community on the campus.
“When I came to UC Santa Cruz, I wanted to connect with other Black students in theater arts, so I joined the African American Theater Arts Troupe,” they say. “When the Black Studies minor became available through the Critical Race and Ethnic Studies department in 2020, I had already taken a few of the classes required for the minor out of curiosity, and with my inclination toward Black theater, it felt like the perfect fit alongside my major.”
Bene’t advises new UCSC students to join clubs and organizations and to establish community, while still also being sure to establish oneself academically. They also want students to know that there are several free resources available – resources that they never took advantage of themselves, but hope others will take advantage of. Bene’t emphasizes that going to welcome events is key to finding out about all of the resource centers and other opportunities that can make such a difference in a student’s academic life.
“One of my favorite things about being at UCSC is being able to witness all the student involvement around campus,” they observe. “There are always events, clubs, and shows that are available to students at any given time. There's a place for every type of person. I found my place with the Cultural Arts and Diversity Resource Center (CADrc) during my freshman year and have stayed involved ever since. Through CADrc, I've served in multiple leadership positions and even had the opportunity to assistant direct the production of 'da Kink in my Hair in 2022 on the Theater Arts Mainstage.”
Bene’t is also a very talented artist and has created striking images to promote recent African American Theater Arts produced plays, including ‘da Kink in My Hair and Pipeline. For fun, they enjoy playing with their cat Opie, having a picnic with their partner, and most especially cooking and trying new recipes.
They are also adamant that everyone feels that they belong. “I'm passionate about inclusion. I want everyone to feel included despite their differences.”