Professor Profile: Deborah Jordan

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The theater profession is one that brings the joy of pure, live entertainment to its audiences. However, theater artists will tell you that unless you’re on Broadway, theater just doesn’t pay the bills.

For assistant professor of theater arts, Deborah Jordan, theater is “as 3D as it can get.” She has been working at Jacksonville University for 18 years now and has taught a little bit of theater to all age groups from senior citizens to 5-year-olds.

She started off as a dancer at the University of Houston in Texas, and after participating in a lead role at a local community theater, Jordan fell in love with acting and finished her undergraduate degree in theater arts. She went on to finish her graduate studies in the same area from Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

Jordan is a professor who takes her job seriously. For her, acting is not something that pays the bills, rather it is a passion of hers she follows diligently. When it comes to teaching, for non-majors she wishes to instill in them the love and appreciation of theater, for them to become theater patrons for life. For theater majors though, it is more about a technique.

“For my students I try to teach them a technique or a method that could work,” Jordan said. “I do believe in a certain method, in a certain technique that I start at the very beginning that they get here, and I reinforce that for four years so that no matter who they work for, whether it be they go on for grad school , they have a good basis and they know they can speak the language that can help them.”

This way, even if students working in the professional world get a director who doesn’t know what he or she is doing, her students have a technique they can fall back on. Jordan admits that one can never really know everything there is to know about theater and she enjoys the aspect of constantly learning what it offers.

“I learn every time I teach a class, every time I do a play,” she said. “I try to get on stage as much as I can so I appreciate what they are going through. The good thing about this profession is that it changes with every play.”

Even when it comes to picking her favorite play, Jordan said it is always the one she is currently working on. For her, it takes an investment to completely believe in what she is directing.

Like every other dedicated professor, Jordan expects more than just good grades and job prospects for her students. She expects from them something that she says “will be on my gravestone.”

“Theater is a collaborative effort,” Jordan said. “It takes everybody’s hard work and dedication because your production is only as good as the weakest person in the cast. I stole this from a playwright, David Ikes, but the Greeks got it right. Back in the sixth century B.C. during the classical golden age of theater, they were working together.”

Jordan said that theater is indeed a unique form of art. A theater actor is in rehearsal for six weeks, collaborating with actors whom he or she may not know at all, but the amount of trust that goes into working together is what makes the final production a true success. It is up on the stage for everyone to judge.

“If I instill anything in my students, it is the collaborative effort of theater,” Jordan said. “You’re just as responsible for your role as you are for the other person’s.”

For someone who has been teaching for nearly two decades now, Jordan said her most memorable moments are still the “a-ha moments, when light bulbs go off for students, and the epiphanies they have.” In other words, it is her students realizing what they have been doing wrong, how they can fix it and then coming back with a marvelous performance.

During her spare time, Jordan enjoys gardening and writing plays. If there is something specific she wishes to teach her students, it is just to guide them down the right path.

“You never know how you’re going to reach students, and sometimes you don’t,” she said. “Sometimes it happens ten years from now. That’s why I do this. That’s why I work so hard.”

Deborah Jordan is passionate about theater, about teaching and about her students. Theater allows her to separate herself from her ego.

“It’s not about making you look good,” Jordan said. “It’s about making the student look good. If you’re teaching with a lot of ego, it will make you look good. But I don’t know if it will serve the students. I want them to feel an ownership about what they do.”

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