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10 Takeaways from Denée Benton's Talkback with Carnegie Mellon Students

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10 Takeaways from Denée Benton's Talkback with Carnegie Mellon Students

Carnegie Mellon alumni Denée Benton did a virtual talkback with the school's musical theatre students and offered her wisdom. Here are a few takeaways!

1. You Never Stop Learning

"You're going to be learning to do this for the rest of your life. There is no version of 'great I know everything there is to know and I'm off now.' It's more about teaching you how to learn and how to approach things with curiosity and humility and investigate stuff. I feel like that is what I held onto."

2. Remember What You Learned

"Each role, each audition requires a whole different set of your skills and your tools, and really it's just a matter of conditioning you to switch up your approach and remembering the things you learned."

3. Be Yourself

"What I focused on was what actually made my heart sing. It was like the doors started to open... It's a combination of miracles and divine doors opening and a combination of you having the courage to show up as yourself and do the work."

4. You're Going to Keep Growing

"Once I left school, I continued to take voice lessons. I kept growing and was ok with the fact that when I left Carnegie Melon at the age of 21/22, I didn't sound like I did now, and I sound better than I did when I was in THE GREAT COMET. You're going to keep growing."

5. Go to Therapy

"Therapy has been my best friend. I started therapy right when I started GREAT COMET rehearsals. That was the first time where I was like 'I'm gonna be so busy.' I'm a caretaker and I wasn't going to be able to see my family as much. It was crippling to me and my jobs were so exhausting, and I could never see my friends...It was challenging for me. I think having compassion for myself was get used to the imperfections or at least you try."

6. Challenge Yourself

"I recommend all of you to just challenge yourselves. Even if you collaborate with a friend because since leaving school, I've written a screenplay with a friend. You start to learn that we are all such creative beings and if you're so caught up in perfection you can stop yourself from finding other parts of your own vehicle, so I say definitely take advantage of that."

7. Be Self-Motivated

"You have to be so self-motivated because there's no grade waiting for you at the end of the semester and there's also no guarantee that when you put in all your hard work that you'll have something to show for it. It's such a spiritual journey. The internal journey of dealing with working, dealing with not working. Finding your truth in that process is a very important part of the growth and I think being able to do this in a healthy, stable way is finding where your roots are."

8. The Theatre Community is Precious

"For theater... the community is so precious. The community that happens with the cast, with the crew, with the props master. It's just such a beautiful coming together of different types of people. That is so precious to me and becomes the thing I cry about the most when it's time to leave."

9. Do What's Right for You

"You can love doing the work and not love the lifestyle of it and chose to let it go and move onto something else. I have friends who are so happy now that they've let go of the shackle of this dream and I have friends who thought they wanted to let it go and really missed it and want it all and will deal with everything it comes with. For me I can't imagine doing anything else. It's such a personal journey. As you grow, different people are going to start making different life choices and it's really about doing what's right for you."

10. Separate Your Career from Your Life

"I fell in love with this and I come from a very spiritual and religious family so there's a lot of, it is your divine calling when you find something that you love, which can be beautiful but it can also make you feel like 'oh my god if I let this thing down I'm letting down my entire destiny.' It's been really helpful for me to start to learn and treat it like a career as well as something I love and my passion but that my life also matters."

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