Artist Spotlight: Andrew Benson-Theatre

After performing in nearly 40 theatrical productions, one St. Ambrose theatre student decided to get a taste of the other side and try his hand at directing.
While he is best known for his roles on stage, senior Andrew Bradford Benson took on a different role this past weekend, directing his first fully realized production, “Dark Play or Stories for Boys.” Benson’s production ran March 24-26 in the Galvin Studio Theatre.
“Dark Play or Stories for Boys” gives its audience a realistic look at the way society uses technology as a tool for communication and how real human connections often take a back seat to technological connections. Benson’s dramedy, a mix of drama and comedy, sheds light on the serious issue of internet reliance, all the while providing the audience with comedic relief.
“It’s really appropriate to what we are going through as a society and how technology is taking over our world,” Benson said. “Sometimes we just really need to take a step back and look at how much we rely on it and consider whether or not that’s a good option for us.”
Selecting a play for his first full production as a director did not pose Benson any difficulty. Benson stumbled upon “Dark Play or Stories for Boys” while looking for scenes to use in the Irene Ryan acting competition over a year and a half ago. When it came time to select a play to direct, Benson knew exactly which he wanted to work with.
“I just kept thinking back to the script and thinking about how much I really enjoyed it when I read it,” Benson said. “I just knew I had to direct it.”
As a director, Benson had a lot more responsibility than his usual task of memorizing a script. Benson worked with a team of designers and actors composed of St. Ambrose faculty and staff to help make his production a cohesive piece.
The five-person cast for “Dark Play or Stories for Boys” consisted of Timothy Stompanato, Anthony Stratton, Amanda Kochanny, Grace Allen, and Austin Eiben. Casting for the play came as a bit of a challenge.
“We have a really strong department of actors,” Benson said. “When you have solid actors that audition for your play, it’s a blessing because you know you will have good actors to work with, but it’s also a curse because you have a hard time choosing between people.”
Benson has found that directing taught him a lot about acting and helps to improve his own performances when on stage. Whether acting in a play or directing one, Benson has found that he does not prefer one over the other.
“They are both rewarding in different ways,” Benson said. “As an actor you just have to focus on your character but as a director you have to focus on the entire production.”
Benson’s interest in theatre dates back to his eighth-grade year, when he first acted in the play “Pompadours and Poodle Skirts.” While he had always been interested in theatre, he hadn’t always considered it as a major. Benson originally started out at St. Ambrose as a biology major, performing in productions on the side.
“I finally realized that I wanted to do what I love for the rest of my life so I changed my major to theatre,” Benson said.
After graduation, Benson plans on moving to New York at the end of June to fulfill his passion for both acting and directing.

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