Student Spotlight: Nicole Hendricks
Nicole Hendricks remembers seeing a flier posted by the Studio Theatre at College of DuPage that read, “Amaze your friends, horrify your parents, become an actor.”
“Initially, it made me giggle, but with each step on this career path, I understood how horrifying it might be for a child to take this leap into acting, into the arts, into the unknown,” she said. “COD gave shape to that unknown because each class I took at COD further defined my educational goals. I entered my college years knowing what I was passionate about, but I did not know how to turn my passions into career goals, which I believe is a universal experience for actors.”
Hendricks was passionate about both theater and psychology. She believes every person is a puzzle to be decoded and discovered that figuring out the motivations behind behavior was even more interesting when taken to the stage.
“If I could convince an audience to buy into the subtext and motivations underscoring a character’s intentions, then I felt successful in decoding the human condition,” she said. “Plus, there is nothing finer than moving an audience to tears or laughter. My first theater experiences were in dance as a child, then as a teenager in high school productions and on the speech team at Elk Grove High School.”
While Hendricks became the first woman in her family to attend college, she also needed to pay for it, which meant finding something affordable. Although her local community college was Harper, she wanted a unique experience and didn’t want to see the same people she already knew. College of DuPage offered a diverse student body and strong theater, speech and social science programs.
“It was priceless to be in classes with teenagers and adults returning to school because the various perspectives offered richness to classroom discussion that I wouldn’t get in a homogeneous classroom population,” she said. “I took as many classes and auditioned for as many genres of theater as I could in order to expand my experiences. Working with Connie Canaday Howard, Marco Benassi, Tim Clue, Don Hood, Craig Berger, Michael Moon, Frank Tourangeau and many others helped sharpen my fine arts education.
“I not only had the benefit of being in productions for College of DuPage but also with the local professional company Buffalo Theatre Ensemble. Working with professional actors gave me true insight into a working actor’s lifestyle. A working actor will always have two to three day jobs, will take risks confidently, and will always look for ways to improve.”
Hendricks earned an Associate in Arts degree from College of DuPage and transferred to Northwestern University to pursue psychology and performance studies. Within one quarter, she refocused and majored only in performing studies. While at Northwestern, she worked with professor Mary Zimmerman and wrote, directed, designed and played John Lennon in a one-woman show called “A Day in the Life.”
“My experiences at COD gave me the foundation that I needed to be successful at Northwestern and continue to experiment in various forms of theater and production,” she said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, Hendricks discovered that the real world of actors was on strike. Then auditions were few, mostly for commercials. So she returned to her high school alma mater to coach the speech team and discovered that she loved working with young actors.
“Auditions became less important to me as I continually saw teenage students become brilliant actors and public speakers. I was awe-struck by their transformations,” she said. “Playing the part of guide-on-the-side became my new role in life and I decided it was time to become a teacher.”
Hendricks earned her master’s degree in education and immediately was hired by Fenton Community High School, where today she teaches English, theater and speech and is an instructional coach. Since joining the coaching staff of Fenton’s speech team, it has continually advanced to state competition.
“While advancing to state competition is wonderful, the more important lesson that I continually get to experience is with my students, who go on to study acting, voice, English and teaching. Some ‘horrify their parents’ by becoming a part of the arts community while also majoring in STEM areas. I thoroughly believe that a well-rounded education includes the arts.”
She has since earned a second master’s degree in Education Leadership, which will give her the option of working in administration. She continues to integrate technology into her curriculum and to work with mixed media in the arts and communication fields.
Hendricks thanks all the faculty in the arts programs at College of DuPage for bringing passion to their work. She also has returned to COD and works with Speech Professor Lauren Morgan on a speech camp.
“As a fellow teacher, I have seen faculty burn-out at all levels of education, but my experiences at COD were with teachers who have drive, enthusiasm and dedication,” she said. “Having experienced both Northwestern University and College of DuPage’s Theater programs, I can honestly say that both programs are created equally. But only one is economically sound and as close to home as Glen Ellyn.”
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