By Kurt J. Kolka
Once you hear the voice of Connie Kendall from Focus on the Family’s “Adventures in Odyssey” radio drama you never forget it. And surprisingly, Katie Leigh, the actress who performs Connie’s voice for each episode is very much like her.
Back in school, Katie’s teachers always reported to her parents, “Good student. Talks too much.”
But that very voice which often got her into trouble is also her greatest blessing from God. Early on in her young adult life, friends pointed out how she has one of those voices which just never grew up and how strong it was. She began making her living lending her voice to cartoon characters, narration for audio books and other types of performances.
Katie became a Christian after becoming an established voice actor. At the time, she was lending her voice to a cartoon called “Dungeons and Dragons,” based on the game. This was at a point when that cartoon and some others were being scrutinized and questioned by evangelical groups. So, she questioned continuing with it.
Then, while listening to Christian radio, she noticed Focus on the Family used voice actors. So, since she was in the area, she drove over to the studio, introduced herself and dropped off a demo. They soon hired her and she became a regular at the studio.
“At the same time, I had just been turned down by the drama group at our church. They said I hadn’t been a Christian long enough.”
When the “Adventures in Odyssey” radio program was in development, the people behind the scenes patterned the character Connie after her. She agreed to take the part.
However, there were various delays in getting ready for production. By the time they called her, she had just had her first baby.
“I felt like Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac. So, I turned them down. Then, about six weeks later, they called me back and offered the part again.”
This time, she accepted. The character of teenage Connie Kendall debuted in the fourth episode of the first season, “Connie comes to Town,” on Dec. 12, 1987. She has gone on to appear in 434+ episodes so far.
“Connie is very similar to me. We come from similar backgrounds – from a divorced family, grew up in California. I just took the role and made her mine.”
At first, Katie would take the script and make little changes to Connie’s dialogue since she considered the character to be her alter ego. The writers soon caught on and began to alter the scripts to make Connie sound more like Katie.
Katie says the whole “Adventures in Odyssey” group is just like family. The actors do an ensemble recording for each episode (something rare in professional recordings these days). Chris Anthony, the host of the program, is one of her best friends. Katie feels blessed by the number of longtime actors she has met through the show.
Besides voicing Connie, Katie has also lent her voice for various audio books, including “Daddy’s Favorite Sound,” “Mommy’s Favorite Smell,” “Homeless For Christmas,” and many others—including her own book co-written with Will Ryan "Adventures in Oddity." She has been appearing at comic book conventions around the country and at church event (with or without other members of the “Odyssey” cast).
In a few weeks, Katie will be attending the Great Lakes Comic Convention at the Macomb Community College Expo Center, 14500 E. 12 Mile Road in Warren on Friday, Feb. 21, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 22 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There she will be getting photos with guests and signing books and audios.
Great Lakes Comic Con is a family friendly event held annually in Warren. Besides meeting cartoonists, children will find free-play arcade, face-painting, family appropriate board-gaming, magic tournaments, costume contests and more.
Children 10 and under get into the comic con for free when accompanied by an adult. Tickets for the comic con are currently at a 25 percent discount. They will go up in price after Friday, Jan. 31 at 11:59 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.greatlakescomicconvention.com/tickets.html
“I love meeting fans,” says Katie. “I feel like listeners are family.”
She also admits her faith has given her a unique perspective about these various events in her life. “I look at everything as a divine appointment.”
Episodes of “Adventures in Odyssey” can be found online at http://www.oaclub.org/ where listeners can hear the adventures of Connie and other characters.
“I am so blessed in this life. It just makes me cry.”