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Fran Bennett, actress and CalArts teacher, dead at 84

The Arkansas native was a longtime faculty member at the university

A veteran actress who was known for her booming voice and was a beloved teacher of voice and acting at CalArts has died. 

Fran Bennett—a native of Arkansas, was a member of the Linklater Voice faculty at the illustrious institution from 1978 until her retirement in 2014. Bennett was also the head of acting and director of performance from 1996 to 2003. 

Her passing this past weekend was recently announced and reported by The Hollywood Reporter. She was 84. 

In a statement, Travis Preston—the Dean of the School of Theater wrote, “Fran’s voice was unmistakable. She never shied away from using it. And she taught so many throughout the years to find and free their own.

Before there were diversity committees and personnel at CalArts, there was Fran. She unceasingly championed students, artists, and innovators of all backgrounds, and demanded that leaders do more to serve the left out and kept out. 

Her King Lear launched the CalArts Center for New Performance. As her director, I was utterly blown away by her fearlessness and ferocity, and it has emboldened me and my work ever since.

Credit: Fran Bennett in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation” via Paramount

Preston continued, “Her legacy will live on in the hearts and minds and voices of the countless people she impacted. I will never forget her and miss her terribly. May we all follow her example – and speak with honesty, grace, strength, and freedom.” 

Bennett first appeared on the daytime soap opera, Guiding Light, in 1965. She was also featured on such shows as Quantum Leap, In the Heat of the Night, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Book of Daniel, and most recently—on Scandal, starring Kerry Washington

Bennett continued acting until the end of her life. She will appear in her last film, The Manor, from the Welcome to Blumhouse horror collection for Amazon Studios. 

Bennett was a recipient of an NAACP Theatre Award and was the first recipient of an AEA/SAG/AFTRA Diversity Honor Award. The Arkansas native has long been a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. 

Students of Bennett’s were encouraged to leave comments about her life on the university’s tribute page. One student wrote, “She was one of the most pow-her-full women I have ever known. She pulled no punches, expected nothing but the deepest of truth and honesty from you as an actor and a human being.”

Just got news that one of my favorite professors at Cal Arts passed away this morning. Fran Bennett suffered no fools but was always fair and kind. She supported my writing more than the own head of my program. She was a legend.

And yes, she was also in Star Trek. pic.twitter.com/yJadhvY2o6

— Brittany Knupper (@MsGeorgiaOQueef) September 12, 2021

“She demanded respect and I felt I had to EARN it from her…but she gave it readily if you were doing your best. I have never had a teacher “scare me” more by her presence, her power, and her strength of character while encouraging me to be brave and honest…AND support me more in my journey to finding my voice.” 

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The post Fran Bennett, actress and CalArts teacher, dead at 84 appeared first on TheGrio.

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