From the circus to the stage, WL native guided by sense of humor
Within the high school play programs of his youth, Travis Nodurft listed just two things under his name in the "bio" section.
"Travis likes Cocoa Puffs," the bio read, "and hopes to one day run away with the circus."
Those words might best be described as playfully serious, for while Nodurft — a 40-year-old West Linn native — was always known for his sense of humor, his dreams of the circus and broader entertainment ventures were very real. He would indeed go on to live out many of those fantasies, and is best known now for his numerous roles at the Clackamas Repertory Theatre as actor, director, producer, photographer.
Nodurft's proudest achievement at the theater is "Wing It," a kids' production he created three years ago with inspiration from his time spent with the Ringling Bros. Circus.
"I always wanted to do a show, and I always wanted to do it with the people at Clackamas Repertory, because they're amazing," said Nodurft, who by day is a teacher at Oregon City's Ogden Middle School. "Basically it takes some things that I did as a clown and we do it more as actors. But it's my baby, I write them — I've written all but one — direct them, produce them ... and then we get a good crowd here, which is exciting, five times a year."
The seeds for Nodurft's entertainment career were planted on the heels of disappointment.
"I went to West Linn High School and my freshman year I was on an intramural basketball team. It didn't go so well," Nodurft said. "I was asked to be the official scorekeeper and there I decided at that point that sports wasn't for me, and I'd be in a play."
Nodurft liked movies, but he didn't know much about acting at the time. That didn't stop him from jumping headfirst into the high school theater world.
"I basically just went into it kind of blind," he said. "And I fell in love with it instantly."
During Nodurft's junior year at WLHS, as he and his classmates started to think seriously about post-graduation plans, he came across a flyer advertising "clown college" in Sarasota, Florida. He put the flyer in his binder, but didn't revisit the idea until a few years later when he was a student at Clackamas Community College.
"When I was at CCC, that flyer showed up again," he said. "The flyer shows up and I'm like, 'OK, I'm going to go audition.'"
Nodurft didn't think he had much of a chance — of the 2,500 who auditioned nationwide, only 30 were to be accepted — but it couldn't hurt to try.
"So I went down (to Portland) with two of my friends, and it was a great audition. It felt really good," Nodurft said. "About a week later I get an invitation and go."
After receiving a diploma from the clown college, Nodurft would move on to perform in the circus with both Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's "The Greatest Show on Earth."
"The circus was amazing," he said. "It was exhausting, it was overwhelming, but it was also exciting. Performing for that many people in a crowd was exciting. While I was exhausted, the clowns never stopped. We'd haze each other, tease each other onstage and offstage."
Circus life couldn't last forever, though, and for a moment Nodurft considered moving into a teaching role for newer clowns.
"It didn't work out that way," Nodurft said. "I found a job here, found a job in Oregon City and loved what I did."
Moving back to the Pacific Northwest also fostered a return to the theater world, as Nodurft found roles in a number of shows at Clackamas Community College under Director David Smith-English. Nodurft also discovered Clackamas Repertory Theatre, and when he's not acting or directing Nodurft can often be found opposite the stage snapping photographs — another passion he rediscovered later in life.
"I really loved photography and I took advanced classes in high school," Nodurft said. "I obviously took a break ... then I got an SLR (single lens reflex camera) again. I just took my knowledge that I had from high school and then I started training myself, getting lenses, figuring things out. ... I've been the resident photographer for Clackamas Rep for years."
Whether he's playing a giant bumblebee or framing his next shot, Nodurft no longer dreams of running away. Home, as it turned out, was always right around the corner.