From disarming landmines to local Merced Shakespearefest actor 'Jim Benenett' is no stranger to fear.

November 9, 2016



As a Combat Engineer who spent two years in Afghanistan disarming landmines and improvised explosive devices to provide route clearance and engaging in combat, Jim Bennett is no stranger to fear. Serving with the Army’s 27th Engineering Battalion and later as an airborne, Bennett first found himself in the armed forces after his child’s first birthday as a way to provide stability for his family, ensure a secure job, and a litany of personal reasons., but with every other member of his family having also served, it seems it may have been bound to happen either way. Bennett also noted that there are a multitude of other personal reasons that he had considered before making the final decision. 
“I wanted to know what kind of person I would be if I did that,” said Bennett. With every member of his family having served in the Armed Forces at one point or another, it was a nearly certain fact that he would find himself within the military at some point in his lifetime. “Our culture doesn't have a very good rite of passage, so you get guys who feel like they're missing something. Part of wanting to serve, for me, was the idea of it being a rite of passage,” Bennett recalled. “I wanted to feel like a real person who had challenged himself, went through hell, and maybe come back.”
At the end of his tour, Bennett found himself coming back to Merced, and specifically back to Merced Shakespearefest. Prior to his deployment, Bennett had found himself involved with the theatre company since its inception. He went on to say that while in those early days he wasn’t the best actor on the stage, having only high school drama classes to rely on for prior experience, but he none the less found himself drawn to the performing arts. That all changed after his contribution to the wartime efforts. 
“There is a Seinfeld joke, that says at a funeral most people would rather be in the coffin then giving the eulogy,” explained Bennett. “What that joke is referencing is that most people’s number one fear is public speaking, and their number two fear is death.” Now approaching the stage with much more under his belt though, that fear has long since passed. “It’s still a scary thing to do, but it’s so much fun” mused Bennett, adding that he still of course gets the jitters that come from wanting to put on a good performance. “Being a veteran totally translates to wanting to do theatre, and putting yourself out there. Those fears from combat or other scary things you had to do translate over.”

Currently Jim Bennet has just wrapped up his performance as Lord Berowne as part of Merced Shakespearefest’s performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost and has begun to look forward to his next performance during a stage reading of Coriolanus at the Merced Arts Center on October 18. The Shakespearean Tragedy is based on the life of legendary Roman leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus. For more information on the upcoming performance, follow Merced Shakespearefest on Facebook and check there upcoming events. 


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