Olivia Sundeen is a vibrant young actress whose many passions create a blend of classical and modern acting techniques. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Olivia is a classically-trained actress who has a love of Shakespeare and has been known to break into song at any moment. She has been in multiple plays throughout California and is looking forward to a long and diverse career as an actor.
Tell us about a transformative educational experience.
The first time I ever performed Shakespeare was at The Academy where I did the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. The intricacies, subtle hints in the text that, for me, opened up a whole new way of performing. Shakespeare’s words seems to set me free and thus my love for his plays began.
What about transformative professional experiences?
In 2017 I faced many challenges both in my personal life and I’m my career. I wasn’t landing paid jobs and my auditions were infrequent. I was moving once a month and repeatedly facing homelessness. I joined a theater company by the name of Tre Stage or Next Stage Theater, depending on which stage the show was playing on. I had done a few shows, probably close to 5 or 6 when they offered my the chance to direct for the first time. So I did Reservoir Bitches, an all female cast of Quintin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. It was funny, life changing, and really allowed me to try on the director’s shoes. I would love another opportunity to direct another stage production to really come into my own, perhaps an assistant directing position should be my next goal.
Why I do what I do...
My grandfather is a writer, my uncle is a musician, my mother is both. There are others but by being an only child to a single mother, these were father figures who, like my mom, shaped the person I’ve now become. I’ve always wanted to be the center of attention. I thrive in the spot-light and was very much what most would call, “a ham”. When I was 5 I was in my first play and had my first live singing performance with my uncle’s band. By the age of 7 I was training with the opera singer Eliza O’Malley, in Berkeley. By the age of 9 I was signed with Starz agency in San Fransisco and booking commercials. This has been my life forever; but, it is also much more than that. When I was 10 I was still unable to proficiently read and I had both my mother and grandfather systemically reading aloud with me. We started off at a sentence, then moved to a paragraph, next a page, then a chapter! The book that finally made it all click for me was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. This story captivated my young mind and unlocked what seemed to be the freedom of my own imagination.
No longer was it all just words on a page, I had found my life’s calling - Storytelling. But also a side effect is “Story-obsessing” - as an actor this is a good thing because when I’m in a project I get way into backstories and I often times make up whole universes in my head. I find answers to questions I didn’t even know I had because they honestly have nothing to do with the story but I am the character and the character lives there so obviously the character knows these things. But then I must put it all aside because as stated previously, I am a storyteller first and foremost, over actor, writer, singer, anything - these are all the avenues in which I can pursue storytelling - everything is about The Story. So, on with the play we actors go and through this beautiful medium we live through this moment in time in an alternate universe, demonstrating to our audience the arch of a character, their gains/losses, and weaknesses/strengths. It is also my own strengths and weaknesses that are tested by my craft. I’m often at a loss for words when my emotions run high and blank out or become tongue tied under pressure. Writing gives me words, singing gives me a voice, and acting gives me a channel for emotions that I could, and have been, overwhelmed by. I say that an actor must feel everything but not reveal everything. What I mean by this is: The Story is everything. It’s just who I am: A Storyteller.
What about ECT inspires you?
From what I have seen I would call the members of the ECT Company “truthseekers” - there is such a level of freedom and a willingness to dive to the depths of ones soul and find the truth in it. I was moved by my interactions with the cast members and I was impressed by their willingness to take risks and that inspires me to also explore my own emotional vulnerability.
Where have you traveled? Where would you like to visit?
I lived in both England and Norway, studying acting and I've traveled to 15 of the 50 states.
My favorite "day-off" event would be...
Wake up (9:30), Walk to the beach and sit on the swings overlooking the water (back by 10:30-11), Continental brunch with friends and family! Then we’d all go to the aquarium and/or zoo. We’d all watch the sun go down and then go to a karaoke bar and everyone would sing for hours (way past midnight)! Then I would go to sleep cuddling my cat with a smile on my face.
If I had one million dollars I would...
First I would buy my mom a villa in the south of France large enough for as many guests as she wishes. I’ve promised her that for years! Next, I would take a trip to every place I’ve ever wanted to visit. India, Indonesia, Tibet, Greece, Egypt, Israel, Germany, France, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and so many more. In each location I would find one worth while cause and donate both my time and money while I was there so I would be not only learning and having a wonderful vacation, but I will leave that place better for me having been there. Now, of course I will also have my own private Island which would be covered with many different kind of plants animals with my mansion in the middle. It’ll have giant automatic double doors so I can make a dramatic entrance or exit whenever I want. There will be high ceilings in the main entry with one chandelier hanging above a beautiful white grand piano. Everything will either be white, a window, or covered in soft fuzzy material. I’ll have many cats and I’ll of course know how to fly so I’ll have a flight strip on the north side of the island so I can go visit my mom in France.
Did you know...
I was born 6 weeks early, on Easter of 1996.
I was born without the ability to go to the bathroom so at 4 days old I went into emergency surgery and had a Ileostomy bag for the first 6 months of my life.
I was deathly allergic to all dairy products until I was 10 when I began to build up a tolerance, Halloween sucked because everyone gave out chocolate.
I’m born and raised in California but my mom speaks many languages and we’ve both traveled fairly often which has landed me with a unique kind of accent that comes and goes occasionally.
I love cats! I’ve had 8 cats in my lifetime and for the one year I was without one I felt lost and I needed my fuzzy friend, so I got my current cat Bo Bartholomew Button. He’s all white with one green eye and one blue eye, with little pink nose and little pink ears, he’s missing some teeth so his tongue sticks out and he’s so affectionate everyone who meets him falls in love.
I have SOHPD (Severe Obsessive Harry Potter Disorder) I’ve read the whole series 13 times and harrypotterfanfiction.com has been my homepage since I was in 7th grade. I have 4 accounts on pottermore.com, one for each house, but I’m a Hufflepuff through and through. I even put the characters I play through the Hogwarts sorting process because I feel it gives me a better understanding of their strengths and weakness right off the bat.
I used to be a competitive swimmer. I was MVP of the varsity team my freshman year and I was on my way to State Championships and the Olympic tryouts my Junior year when I threw out my right shoulder during practice. I had, up to that point, two plans for how my life was going to go. I was going to get a swimming scholarship and go to a good 4 year school and get a degree in marine biology and archaeology (I wanted to discover more about the evolution of marine mammals because not much is really known about that). But I didn’t have the grades to get into the school I wanted without a swimming scholarship so I had to reevaluate. My mom sent me to England and while I was there I applied to every acting school I’d ever wanted to attend and returned home to the states for their auditions. I was accepted into 3 of the 5 that I applied for and that is the reason I’m in LA pursuing my dream of becoming an actor.