Student Spotlight: Nick Bender
Nick Bender grew up playing sports and admits he really didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life.
In high school, Bender joined the school choir, which he also had done in middle school, but his focus was on football and basketball. When Bender didn’t make the basketball team his freshman year, his choir director suggested he audition for the school musical. He did and was cast in small parts during both his freshman and sophomore years.
At the end of his sophomore year, Bender attended the theater banquet with several friends and heard the theater director announce the play line-up for his junior year.
“He talked about ‘The Laramie Project’ and how 12 actors would play over 60 characters and tell the beautiful true story of Matthew Shepard and the town of Laramie, Wyoming. I decided at that time that I would give up football to audition,” he said. “I auditioned, was cast, and the show was selected to perform at the all-state theater fest. That experience made me want to continue acting and storytelling.”
Bender turned to College of DuPage to learn how to compete as an actor at the collegiate level and whether he wanted to pursue acting as a career. The answer would be a resounding “yes.”
“The Theater program laid the foundation to everything that I’ve done in my career. Connie Canaday-Howard, Amelia Barrett and the entire technical theater staff, Michael Moon, Jon Gantt, Galen Ramsey, Aly Amidei and the many guest directors, teachers and designers taught me so much,” he said. “Not only did I learn acting, directing, improv, stage design, make-up and script analysis, but they also guided me on the business of acting. I learned about finding an agent, what theater companies in Chicago I should try to work with, how to conduct myself as a professional actor and countless other gems.
“My second year at COD, I was awarded the John Belushi Memorial Theatre Scholarship. Earning that award helped me financially for my future educational goals and gave me confidence and additional training opportunities that have influenced me ever since.”
After graduating from College of DuPage with his Associate in Arts degree, Bender completed his Bachelor in Arts in Theater from the University of Southern California and returned to the Chicago area. From 2008 through May of 2012, he performed in numerous plays in and around Chicago, acted in several feature and short films, recorded a national voice-over for DeVry University, and directed theater productions at Naperville North High School.
In June of 2012, he moved back to Los Angeles where he has put together what he considers “a great team” of agents and a manager. In November of 2014, he booked his first national commercial and 2015 booked two more commercials, including one for Geico. He continues to audition and in 2016 worked with fellow COD alum Lamorne Morris on a Ninja Turtles parody.
“I’d love to continue working as an actor and continue to make a living working as an actor,” he said. “I’d love to teach and direct in some capacity while working professionally. I’d love to work with Matthew McConaughey, Johnny Depp and Sean Penn. I’d love to be directed by Clint Eastwood. I’d love to be offered roles and be able to pick which roles I want. I’d love to work on Broadway at some point. I’d love to win an Oscar.”
Bender advises other students interested in theater to develop a strong foundation at College of DuPage.
“Take every theater class COD has to offer and work with as many of the extraordinary faculty members that you can. Audition for everything in the theater department that you can. I did not get cast in the first five shows I auditioned for at COD. It takes time, patience and perseverance at every level of this business. Create your own work when there is no work. Team up with the film department students,” he said. “The connections you make at College of DuPage will help you long after graduation.
“Then, as an actor, say ‘yes’! You have to say ‘yes’ at so many points throughout the casting process before you’ll hear a ‘yes’ back. Don’t get discouraged and don’t count yourself out before you’ve had a chance. A professor at USC would tell this story of a young artist asking an accomplished artist, ‘How do I get to where you are?’ The accomplished artist replied, ‘It’s impossible, but there are a million ways.’ There is no step-by-step formula in this business. There are certain steps you need to take to reach certain goals but those steps can all be taken your own way and in your own time. Create your path. And be yourself. I know that sounds cliché but I can’t tell you how many people I run into that have no substance because they are pretending to be an actor.”
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