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Darlington graduate, Dan Olson, sees success acting for the stage and the big screen
Dan Olson
Dan Olson graduated from DHS in 2001 and recently wrapped up several acting projects.

Dan Olson, who resides in New York City, finished up the 2013 Broadway tour of the Addam’s Family last year and had a recent appearance in The Wolf of Wall Street, Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest film, which is currently in theatres.

Olson also happens to be a Darlington native and a 2001 graduate of Darlington High School (DHS).
After Olson left DHS he put in four years at Huntington University in Indiana and graduated in 2005 with several shows and short films under his belt. He then moved to Orlando, Fla. and worked at the Holy Land Experience and Universal Studios for two years before he got a job at Universal Studios Japan as Frankenstein in the Universal Monsters Live show and participated in 1301 performances.

That experience was “the most life-changing experience I could’ve hoped for” said Olson.    
Olson returned to the U.S. in 2009 and married his college sweetheart, Amber Patrick. The couple moved to Madison for a few years and then made the transition to New York City in 2011.

Currently they live in Washington Heights on Manhattan with their dog Tyson and have hopes to move closer to Central Park if and when opportunity allows.

Before becoming involved with the Addams Family tour last year, Olson had 10 successful auditions for pilots, plays, musicals and films in NYC.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with wonderfully talented and generous people in all areas of production, and I’ve learned that people will usually present their best selves unless you give them reason not to,” said Olson of his experiences.

Olson hopes to top last year’s number of successful auditions in 2014. In fact in the first few weeks of January Olson said he has about half a dozen auditions for several projects, one of which could potentially take him back on the road.

Olson said he is most excited about a new musical called Someone to Belong To, for which he will play the lead. “The production team is currently rounding up financing for a New York based run,” explained Olson. “I’d love for a Broadway run, but there are a lot of hoops to jump before then.”

Most of the projects that Olson has become involved with have come about due to his own hard work and “sweat equity,” but he does attribute some opportunities to knowing the right people.

“I’ve got a featured bit in The Wolf of Wall Street—with a python—that I snagged due to my relationship with an assistant manager at a restaurant I was working at last winter,” said Olson. “Leonardo DiCaprio [who stars in the film] is a big animal lover, so he was only interested in talking with me once I had a snake around my neck,” he added.

Olson said he was on the set of the movie, which was released in theatres on Christmas Day, for 20 plus days and didn’t feel out of place the entire time. He added that he made some great friends while he was on set and is definitely looking forward to seeing his name above the title.

On the stage side of Olson’s recent performances he played Lurch, the family butler in The Addams Family. The actor said, “It was an honor to take direction from the legendary director, Jerry Zaks, and to perform for the show’s composer, Andrew Lippa. The friends and family I made while part of the tour are lifelong, and I was crushed to say goodbye to them.”

With the 2013 tour of the show Olson was part of 264 performances and said the happiest of those was when the show traveled to Appleton.

“A contingent of friends and family made the journey to see me, not the least of which were Leona and Kim Havens. I support and have support from the greatest people alive,” said Olson. Leona Havens is an English and drama teacher at DHS.

With experience both in acting for stage and film, Olson said while he loves the familiarity and straightforwardness of the stage, he also loves the process of filmmaking. “I can honestly say that I just want to make movies, and I hope to keep finding talented people with whom to do so,” he said. 

As far as advice for any aspiring actors and those even remotely interested in the performing arts back in his hometown, Olson encourages those individuals to start making and distributing material on YouTube immediately. He also stressed the great importance of being involved in different aspects of Darlington’s theatre.

From the community group, children’s theatre, the Pop Factory kids, or DHS theatre, opportunities abound in the Darlington area and Olson encourages enthusiastic pursuit of those opportunities.

“I’ve had a charmed entry into the world I’m trying to take over, and it’s all because of the denizens of Darlington,” said Olson. “I’m as big of a supporter of Darlington theatre as there is because I know I wouldn’t even have pursued a performing career without the community we have in Darlington.”

Among many that Olson said helped him along his way, he added, “Fritz and Steph Hanewall deserve special mention for a number of things I can’t repay.”

Olson is the son of Neil and Ellen Olson, who still reside in Darlington along with his grandmother Ruth Olson. Olson said his parents and grandmother live on opposite sides of town on the family farms and that most of his family live within about an hour of the Darlington area.

“That’ll make a reunion easy, once we find a way to get back out to Darlington,” said Olson.