By Allie Layos ’09
William Woods University senior Cody Olendorff of Pacific, Mo., says he was “hit with a bug” while in high school.
Thanks to the WWU theatre program, he’s letting that bug—the acting bug—carry him more than 1,700 miles to Hollywood, Calif., for a summer abounding with learning experiences and great career opportunities.
Olendorff says that his interest in the acting world began when he was cast in a role for “Les Miserables” during high school.
After this initial experience on the stage, he continued to seek out acting opportunities. He joined the drama club, and among other things, he played Benjamin Franklin in “1776,” and Joseph in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Olendorff says he loves acting, first and foremost, because of the audience.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t like it because of the attention. But beyond that, I love it because when you’re acting, you get to do things that you wouldn’t do in everyday life,” he said.
When it came time to pick a college, he chose WWU for two reasons.
“Well, the obvious reason was the fact that they had a good theatre program,” he said. “But also, my sister went to Westminster College in Fulton, and I wanted to be close to her.”
At WWU, Olendorff has been completely immersed in theatre and acting. He chose to major in musical theatre performance, taking classes like stage combat and stage and makeup—important subjects for any aspiring actor.
Obviously this means that many of his favorite college moments have happened while on stage—two of his favorite roles were playing Trevor in “Bedroom Farce” and Leslie in “Seascape”—but Olendorff and his theatre buddies have also had memorable experiences outside of the WWU auditorium.
They found time to travel to other theatres in the area, like the community theatre in Jefferson City, Mo. Olendorff and four others even managed to attend a master class with composer and playwright Stephen Schwartz in Dayton, Ohio, last fall.
Schwartz has written music for plays such as “Wicked” and “Pippin” and movies such as Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
According to Olendorff, taking the class with Schwartz was very insightful.
“He talked about auditioning and how when you sing a song you need to hit the right notes, but you also need to perform well. The best part was he picked people to come up and sing and he would critique them. He was never mean, he just told these students that you need to do this and that…he just helped them to be better at what they were performing.”
Now, thanks to Joe Potter, assistant professor of performing arts and artistic director of theatre, Olendorff will soon have the chance to test his own performances in Hollywood.
Potter, who spent five years in Hollywood working in the movie and television industry, has contacts in both New York and Hollywood. As a result, the WWU theatre program is able to offer upperclassmen the option of studying for a semester in either location. Olendorff will be completing his internship in the summer.
“Not every student gets to go,” Potter said. “They have to go through a selection and application process. We consider academic criteria, we look at the student as a person, and we look at their self-motivation. It has always been a nice caveat for the students that are able to take advantage of it—there is a lot of potential there. I think this is a very good chance for Cody.”
Olendorff will work for Discover Management in Burbank, Calif., a seven-year-old management company that handles and counsels talent in film, television, hosting, voice over and print.
“It’s a talent agency,” Olendorff said. “Basically they discover people and get them agents and allow them to become part of the Actor’s Guild. I’ll be doing some general office work, but I will also hopefully get to go on casting calls.”
While it is relatively new, Discover Management has had many clients involved in films and television shows like “Savings Grace,” “2 Fast and 2 Furious,” “One Life to Live,” The Santa Clause 3” and “Role Models.”
“I think it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance, really,” said Olendorff. “It’s such an amazing opportunity that words can’t describe how awesome it is.”
Potter thinks that Olendorff has the talent to succeed in a place like Hollywood.
“He is a very good actor,” said Potter. “When he auditions, he reads well for any part we ask him to read for. He’s not afraid to take risks on stage, which is very important, and he has very good stage presence. I think this is a great chance for him to get a feel for Hollywood, get exposure there and solidify his goals and perspectives.”
But Olendorff doesn’t think his goals are going to change. Once he graduates, he plans on mov