Actor D.J. Blickenstaff ’09 loved both baseball and theater when he entered high school at Harker, but their schedules conflicted. The acting bug had bitten him when he was a member of the Harmonics vocal group in middle school, so he decided to say goodbye to baseball and audition for the spring musical. He hasn’t looked back. On May 17, 2019, Blickenstaff, along with Gabrielle DeMers ’03, was given Harker’s inaugural Life in the Arts award.
“D.J. made his love of performing very clear to everyone very early on,” said Laura Lang-Ree, performing arts chair, “and it was easy to see why. As soon as I saw him shine on stage in Harmonics, I understood why. He loved performing.
“D.J. entered high school as a complete force of nature, unlike one we had ever encountered. With impeccable manners, a fantastic attitude and willingness to go the extra mile, D.J. easily became somebody all of us wanted to work with – which makes sense because we always tell our certificate students, ‘If you want to make it in this business, you not only have to be talented, but the nicest person in the room.’ That’s D.J.”
Blickenstaff shone in Harker productions “Urinetown: The Musical” (Lockstock) in 2007, “Annie Get Your Gun” (Frank Butler) in 2008 and “The Music Man” (Harold Hill) in 2009.
“My passion for acting began at Harker, and has just grown from there,” said Blickenstaff, who was part of the Conservatory’s inaugural trip to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. “Harker’s teachers gave me a strong core on which to build.”
Blickenstaff went on to earn a B.F.A. from the University of Southern California, where – while performing as Joey in “The Most Happy Fella” – he was approached by a management agency interested in representing him. “They were scoping for talent, and I got lucky,” he said. “I was able to build a really solid team of six different agents working for me in different areas of the industry.”
Blickenstaff’s first jobs included acting in NBC’s “Diversity Scene Showcase,” a one-night event spotlighting up-and-coming talent, and delivering a one-liner on “Sean Saves the World.” He currently has a recurring role on Netflix’s “Dear White People” and recently shot the pilot of a show called “#Fashionvictim,” which – if picked up – would be his first regular role in a series.
He previously appeared in multiple episodes of “Catching a Break” and “Colony” and is the author of a web series about the Hollywood business industry. When he’s not auditioning, Blickenstaff keeps busy with live theater in Los Angeles and as the voiceover announcer for USC’s public events.
“I enjoy pursuing entertainment for social change – letting art be something that drives people to make changes in their lives or the world,” Blickenstaff said. “It’s a beautiful thing to be on a set with so many people who believe in the story we’re telling.”
Life in the Arts awardees are those alumni who have the character, talent, drive and determination to pursue their passion as their livelihood. Our inductees come from the stage, screen, classroom, backstage and rehearsal halls. They are passionate about their art and create at the highest level within their domain.