Ava Benson takes the road to fame


Photograph courtesy of Carmelita Watkinson

Ava Benson stars as the Mad Hatter in the musical rendition of “Wonderland.” Benson’s unmatched talent landed her this role, as well as getting her copious sparkling reviews in various online papers.

I’m definitely an actor first.

— senior Ava Benson

WJ knew her before she was famous. Senior Ava Benson’s accomplishments in theater performing prove great promise for her future career. As she prepares for college, her academics and performances rage on as she juggles all portions of her multifaceted life.

Benson’s yellow brick road to fame started at a young age, where the dream of being an actor was born.

“I went to this preschool called Arts Together in North Carolina … we would put on these little shows and the kids would make up their own plays. That’s where I got into it … They said, ‘We’re gonna make a show!’ and a kid would say ‘I wanna be a lost baby horse!’ or ‘I wanna be a pirate,’” Benson said.

Today, her acting and singing abilities are unmatched, as she’s performed in the Young Artists of America (YAA) productions “Legally Blonde”, “Sweeney Todd”, “Wonderland” and “Hal Prince’s Broadway” to name a few. Benson has continuously been credited and praised for her unrivaled fervor and range in both singing and acting.

While Benson shines in the spotlight, she also contributes backstage as a makeup crew chief for WJ S*T*A*G*E, working on “Shrek” and “The Addams Family”, getting actors and actresses looking their best. However, this is more of a secondary interest for Benson.

“I like the process, I like learning the music, going to rehearsals, meeting new people, I like the energy of the people around me … I’m definitely an actor first,” Benson said.

Benson credits most of her success to her involvement in YAA, a non profit theater organization that accepts performers of all ages. She recently performed in their production of “Hal Prince” which prompted an interview from none other than NBC news. While nervous to appear on live television, her nerves never overcame her and provided a radiant interview.

“[YAA] came up to me and said, ‘Hey Ava, they want to possibly do a feature about Young Artists of America in the news and we’re wondering if you want to be a part of that?’ So I said ‘Yeah of course, for sure,’” Benson said.

Throughout her theatrical endeavors, there were conflicts that even Benson couldn’t act her way out of. The lack of performances due to the lockdown, and the mountain of academic responsibilities have made it difficult to keep going, but have never put Benson in a corner.

Luckily for the theater world, Benson plans to continue to pursue her performance career and attend the theater program at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this fall. Benson notes the challenges of applying for such a major and the amount of time and dedication it took for her to apply to a whopping number of 18 different schools, but she has no regrets.

“The college audition process was hell … It was like regular applications with the regular common app, and supplementals, plus additional videos and supplementals for all of my eighteen schools,” Benson said.

Benson urges others to go for what they feel they will achieve most in life, especially as her high school years come to an end.

“Invest time in what you do especially if you take it seriously, but also don’t take it so seriously to the point where you steal the joy out of it. Still have fun with it and always think back and remember why you’re doing it,” Benson said.