As a student at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA), Kiira Benzing ’07 found herself calling on her Lafayette education in a way she couldn’t have imagined.
During her senior year at Lafayette, Andy Smith, assistant professor of English and chair of the American studies program, introduced her to a film called Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio. “It has stuck with me ever since,” says Kiira, who has had roles on TV and in film. “My teacher in London asked me to portray the light of the city. I blurted out, ‘Oh, like Koyaanisqatsi!’ and my professor said, ‘Exactly, you’re the first student to ever make that comparison!’”
Kiira’s love for the theater began when she was a first-year student at Lafayette. She double majored in French and a self-designed major in performance studies. She founded the student group Five Actors in Search of A Director and graduated summa cum laude.
“I did everything from main stage production to black box theater,” she recalls. “It was always a great experience. Professor Michael O’Neill, Professor Suzanne Westfall, and Chris Hutchinson ’91 were all great and encouraging.”
She also took her passion overseas and studied abroad her junior year, spending the first semester in Paris and the second in Russia.
After graduation, Kiira went to Cambridge, Mass., to continue her training at the Moscow Art Theatre Summer Academy. “My favorite play at Lafayette was a Chekov play, so I wanted to continue to study Russian theater,” she says She then went to London to study at LAMDA.
After graduating from LAMDA, Kiira began working on her own film in New York City. “I had been dreaming about this piece for a while,” she says. “I started working on a grant for it while I was in London. The timing was just right and it all fell into place.”