Leslie has a diverse background in theatre, music and dance. She has performed professionally in opera, musical theatre, theatre and modern dance in addition to her career in education. Her scholarship is rooted in the fundamental belief of the actor as creative artist, and in the transformative ways in which movement, imagination and improvisation can motivate, illuminate and enliven the actor’s ability to communicate. Prior to her appointment at Iowa State, Leslie was Associate Professor at the University of Kansas where she taught movement, acting, musical theatre, devising, stage combat and period styles. There she served as director/choreographer for Company, A Grand Night for Singing and The Thirteen Clocks, as well as creating the choreography for numerous productions including The Music Man, Really Rosie, Street Scene, The Magic Flute, and George Dandin, as well as doing movement coaching for many productions. In 2015, Bennett was the guest director for Mozart’s The Magic Flute at Iowa State University.
Bennett performed the role of Titania in the landmark Original Pronunciation University of Kansas production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Paul Meier, which was later recorded for NPR. Also at KU, she played Marmee in the musical Little Women, directed by Amy Corcoran and Judith Bliss in Hay Fever, selected for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region V in 2006 (which incidentally took place that year at Iowa State!) In the summer of 2012, Bennett premiered the role of Annie Oakley in a work-in-progress performance of Shooting is a Gentle Thing, by colleague John Gronbeck-Tedesco, which was directed by Dawn Arnold of Moving Dock Theatre in Chicago. Leslie continues to perform concerts and has presented her research both nationally and abroad.
Bennett received her MFA from Boston University in Movement and Voice and taught Movement there in the Opera and Music departments. She also taught Movement and Applied Voice at Emerson College and free-lanced as a choreographer and actor in the Boston area. Bennett’s operatic credits include Despina in Cosi Fan Tutte with Opera Aperta, under the direction of Craig Smith, Katchen in Boston Lyric Opera's Werther and Lelia in the Early American Theatre Company's Satanella. In the annual Playwright's Platform in Boston, she premiered the role of Hester Prynne in A! The Letter and has performed with American Stage Festival, Merrimack Repertory Theatre and the New Ehrlich Theatre, and as a member of the Boston Lyric Opera chorus.