Loy Norrix junior is forced to cut acting career short due to COVID-19 conditions


Credit: Katherine Mumma, Kalamazoo Civic

(Left to right) Elias Nagel-Bennett, playing Treville, inducts D’Artagnan played by Max Butkiewicz into the Musketeers. The production of the Three Musketeers depicted was in 2019, in which Nagel-Bennett played Treville along with the Duke of Buckingham, marking his most recent performance at the Kalamazoo Civic.

Amady Mboup, Knights Speak Team

“I just want to act,” said junior Elias Nagel-Bennett, when questioned on his feelings towards COVID-19 and the effects the virus has had on his career. 

Nagel-Bennett has been acting in Kalamazoo’s Civic Theatre since 2015 in order to have more opportunities to entertain people outside of his school through his acting.

“Honestly, the thing that stands out to me about volunteering at the Civic is that next level beyond,” Nagel-Bennett said.

Student actor Nagel-Bennett recollected his experiences at the Civic. “It’s obviously not professional acting, You’re not getting paid for it. It’s a volunteer thing, but you do feel like this is serious. People are coming to see this show for the purpose of entertainment not just [because] my kid is in it.”

As with most people, students especially, there is a stark sense of despair for those whose jobs, hobbies, and interests are dependent on the ability to be up-close and personal with others. This applies for Nagel-Bennett as there is simply no way for his acting hobby to continue while in the midst of COVID. For someone like him, this truly stings.

Acting brought lots of joy and character development to Nagel-Bennett who feels that the benefits that come from acting have been a huge part of the experience. From something as major as social skills or voice projection to lesser abilities like sword fighting techniques, acting has had a lot to offer for Nagel-Bennett. 

“It taught me how to be a part of something greater,” Nagel-Bennett said. “Acting has brought me a lot of confidence I didn’t used to have.”

For something as important to Nagel-Bennett as his acting career, it being taken away is extremely detrimental to his development as not only an actor but a person. According to “The Benefit of Acting” from the Mary Jo’s Performing Arts Academy, ”Drama improves a child’s public speaking skill. Acting increases a teamwork mentality. Drama improves a child’s confidence. Acting makes a child more physically active. Performing in plays increases memorization. Being in drama and on stage improves professionalism.”

 Acting has given Nagel-Bennett a unique way to learn life skills and become a better person, as well as bringing him closer to the community.

“That sense of true unity and purpose in unity is what really makes me think I enjoy the Civic,” Nagel-Bennet said.

Kalamazoo’s Civic Theatre is known for giving child performers such as Nagel-Bennett the opportunity to put on a show for their community. They not only allow aspiring child-actors to perform in their shows, they also put on acting camps for those who may be a bit too young or inexperienced to get a role in one of their productions. Nagel-Bennett has also taken the opportunity of the latter before being cast in a show.

“The Beginning to Acting class [at the Civic Theatre]. It was the first time I truly did act,” Nagel-Bennett said.

Nagel-Bennett’s experience in the acting class put him on the path of performing he is on today. Being seven years old when he attended his first acting class, no wonder the now 16 year old struggles with the loss of his favorite hobby.

Hopeful of the future, many believe we will again get a chance to go back to our regularly scheduled lives. Among those people are Elias Nagel-Bennett who hopes one day he’ll be able to work with the Civic again.

Even so, facing the reality that there may not be enough time between Nagel-Bennett graduating high school and the Civic Theatre opening back up, he does plan for the future.

“I have other passions that I think I can make into a career more easily.” Nagel-Bennett continued, “So I think I’ll keep acting in my life, but I don’t think I’ll ever want to or be able to bring it to the level where it’s my source of income.”

As the end of COVID-19’s reign of terror is not yet foreseeable, many folks, including Nagel-Bennett will have to do what they can with what they have in order to continue their lives through this struggle. The answer on how to do that remains up to your own discretion, but Nagel-Bennett has hope we will find a way. Nagel-Bennett felt that there was one skill that provided a bit of guidance to those who may be down.

As Nagel-Bennett put it best, “It’s the ability to get back up after things go wrong.”