Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama has provided a lot of talent to the hit Broadway production, “The Book of Mormon.” Over the past couple of weeks, “The Book of Mormon” has been giving back.
Since “The Book of Mormon” premiered in 2011, with three School of Drama grads originating principal and ensemble roles, several more alumni have played in the cast. In late September, when the national tour rolled into town, the New York producers invited current students to attend a performance at Heinz Hall.
Denee Benton (MT ’14), currently starring as Nabulungi in the national tour of “The Book of Mormon,” noted that her cast mates could tell how much the Pittsburgh house loved her during these performances.
Also, Benton and her co-star, David Larsen (A ’02) gave a post-performance talk back moderated by Professor and Head of the School of Drama, Peter Cooke, OAM Ph.D., for Carnegie Mellon alumni on Sep. 29.
During the conversation Cooke asked Larsen what he thought distinguished the School of Drama from other conservatory training programs. Larsen replied that it was the strong foundation in acting theory that set School of Drama alumni apart in the musical theater world.
“To tell the story of the song is more important than hitting the notes,” Larsen said. “I mean, you’ve gotta hit the notes but I would rather see a story told.”
Before their two weeks in Pittsburgh were over, Larsen and Benton made their way back to Oakland for a visit to Purnell Center for the Arts, where they spoke to current School of Drama students about their work in “The Book of Mormon.”
Many students were curious about Benton’s recent transition from the conservatory to the professional atmosphere.
Benton suggested to students that they never get too comfortable, that they take directorial advice with grace and that they always believe in the innate gifts that helped them win the role.
Larsen also offered up some wisdom from his 12 years as a working actor.
“You should never need to take extra classes if you continue to apply what you learned here,” said Larsen. “It’s those who stick around, it’s those that persevere, that’s who ‘makes it.’”