10:36 AM

Niesha Dayshaun Bentley’s Film Selected for Festival

Niesha Bentley, MLA ’17 in Drama, has been acting since she was in a crib, pretending she did not bite her wailing cousin. That’s the story her mother has always told. But it’s Bentley’s screenplay writing, directing and producing that has led to her latest achievement. Her original comedy short film, “Menstrual Man,” was chosen by the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival to be shown at the 2020 event.

Bentley said, “It’s exciting to have my work selected, and I’m nervous about it too. What an honor to have my film seen at the nation’s largest self-producing platform for Afro-centric theatre.”

Benefits of Great Guidance from UST’s McDonald

The passionate thespian developed her attention-getting project after some nudging from UST Professor of Drama Claire McDonald.

“She and I were talking about what I should do for my final grad project,” Bentley recalled. “Professor McDonald asked what I was aiming for in my career, and I said that I aspire to direct one day. After that, she declared that I should write, direct and produce a short film. I didn’t want to, but I did it to graduate and look what’s happened.”

Bentley picked UST because she enjoys every aspect of theatre.

“The master program is inclusive,” Bentley said. “They didn’t make me choose between technical theatre and performance. Instead, UST blends the two worlds into their program, which gave me a deeper understanding of the craft and expanded the knowledge I already had.”

Versatility Keeps Bentley in Demand

The energetic, multi-talented thespian works in multiple positions. As an actress, she recently signed with her first talent agency and frequently performs for the cancer center’s theatre outreach program at Baylor College of Medicine. “I play a National Hot Rod Association assistant crew chief named Becka Jackson.”

She also contracts with theatres in the Houston community, and the committed writer-director-producer is at work on a full-length feature film version of “Menstrual Man,” which uses comedy to foster family unity.

“In my screenplay, men are the ones who get pregnant,” Bentley said.

Her Clear Reason for Being

Bentley credits UST for helping her to realize her purpose.

“Numerous times, my professors posed an increasingly familiar question to us, ‘Who are you, and what do you want to do with your life?’ They prompted us to take the question seriously. Consequently, I know why I’m here. I am a storyteller and an actress who wants to make people laugh. Laughter overcomes negativity, and laughter is contagious.”

For information on UST’s robust Drama Department, visit here.

For more on UST’s Master in Liberal Arts program, go here.