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Fran Bennett, a veteran actress who taught voice and acting at CalArts for 36 years, died over the weekend, the school announced. She was 84.
Known for her booming voice, Bennett was a member of the Linklater Voice faculty at CalArts from 1978 until her retirement in 2014. She also served as head of acting and director of performance from 1996 to 2003.
“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,” Dean Travis Preston of the CalArts School of Theater said in a statement.
“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.”
Born on Aug. 14, 1937, in Malvern, Arkansas, Bennett earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin.
She studied voice under Scottish actress Kristin Linklater at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and movement with Austrian actress Litz Pisk in London, then returned to the Guthrie to spend 12 years as its voice and movement director.
Bennett made her onscreen debut on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light in 1965 and went on to appear on Roots: The Next Generations, Lou Grant, St. Elsewhere, Cagney & Lacey, Dynasty, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Quantum Leap, In the Heat of the Night, Becker, Community and Scandal.
In 2019, she portrayed Mother Jefferson on The Jeffersons segment of Live in Front of a Studio Audience.
Her film résumé included Promises in the Dark (1979), Wes Craven’s Newest Nightmare (1994), Foxfire (1996), Leave It to Beaver (1997), 8MM (1999), The Next Best Thing (2000), Jessabelle (2014) and the upcoming The Manor.
For the stage, Bennett was a member of the classical theater company Antaeus, a founding member of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company and an Ovation Award and NAACP Theatre Award winner.
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