Connie Comes To Taylor

This past weekend, I flew back to Indiana, to my alma-mater, Taylor University in order to meet someone who has been a part of my life for almost as long as I’ve been alive: Katie Leigh, the voice of Connie Kendall on Adventures in Odyssey. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this radio show (yes, I just said radio) it is a program of Focus on the Family and has been running since 1987. In 2012, they are celebrating 25 years on the air and still going strong. The show has changed a lot over the years, characters have come and gone, and, in some cases, come back, actors have died, gotten married and lived life around the show. There are really only a couple of constants on the show, it is fitting that one of them should be Connie (Constance) Kendall.

Katie Leigh is in her 50’s, but, as a voice actor, she is constantly changing her voice to accommodate the needs of a specific part or director. Far from only doing Adventures in Odyssey, she is in numerous projects all the time. As an example, this weekend she did her “Young Han Solo” voice from Lego Star Wars. How pleasantly surprised I was to discover that her “Connie” voice is really her “Katie” voice.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I was at Taylor, I became a founding member of the Adventures in Odyssey club senior year. There was a small group of us (about 6) and we would meet once a week to listen to episodes, discuss our favorites and share life lessons we’d learned or test questions we’d gotten right because of Odyssey. For me, the stories in Odyssey taught me the value of fiction and made me want to write it.

Even more than what we did, this shared bond, a link to a more innocent time in our lives (which honestly hadn’t stopped for most of us) connected us on a deeper level. We became friends who took care of one another and did fun things together. Later on, we started acting out and recording our own versions of a few episodes, and one fond memory has us all in the library winning a trivia contest put out by a fan site.

The year after I graduated, the club caravanned to Colorado Springs over spring break to visit the “real” Whit’s End (a local ice-cream shop in the town of Odyssey which is the scene of much of the action in the show and the home base for the main characters). I wanted so much to go with them, but work and money and the impossibility of it stood in my way.

Maybe that was why, this past summer, I didn’t even think about going to Taylor when I heard that Katie Leigh was going to be there. It wasn’t until later on, as plans for her visit began to migrate around Facebook and I heard from the club president (also my year) that she was going to be there that I mentioned it aloud. My mom encouraged me to go. Things came together: a class I was supposed to teach was cancelled, my vacation request was approved, there was a seriously great price on a flight, I found people to stay with and take me to and from the airport. If you knew me when I was in college, you might know how stressed I can be about the details of getting a ride to the airport. All of this went so smoothly. I knew I had to go. God couldn’t have been clearer.

There is much to say about my visit to Taylor, so much in fact, that I’m giving it a full entry soon. So for the purposes of this post, you’ll find me in a car with all the club members (or half of them) on the way to Ft. Wayne to pick up Katie Leigh. We held a large sign with her name on it and welcomed her in full club style. When she arrived, she took a picture with all of us and put it right on Facebook.

I had the privilege of riding back with her (along with another club member) to help with navigation and even though every word out of her mouth sounded like it was coming out of Connie, pretty soon, I stopped being so excited about meeting the character and enjoyed getting to know the woman.

Throughout the next day, I had a chance to be there for most of what was going on (that’s what not having classes or homework will do for you) and spend a lot of time with Katie. She shared herself with us, being vulnerable about her faith, her life, her family, her job. She is a voice I’ve heard in my head for years, and all of a sudden she was talking to me, saying my name, encouraging me in my faith and my dreams and my vision. There could be nothing better.

At one point in the evening, at the Adventures in Odyssey Live Show, we read scripts and I played Whit to Katie’s Connie. She delivered her lines just the way she had on the show, the same inflections, the same pitch. The only difference was that we could see her face, her body language and we had seen her heart.

It was hard to leave on Tuesday. My reunion with the club had been so sweet and meeting Katie was far better than I could have imagined. I’m going to live on this experience for a long time.

There is little that I can say that will communicate what this visit was like and what it meant to me. If you want to hear more, see more pictures or squeal with me, get in touch. My goal here is to give you a little taste. I hope I have succeeded.