Teaching Artist Spotlight: Meet Jordan Harris
We are thrilled to feature Director Jordan Harris in the Teaching Artist Spotlight! Jordan is an actor, writer, and director currently based in Silver Spring, MD. He began his acting journey with Lumina Studio Theatre before attending the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C. While enrolled at Yale University, he was a member of the Heritage Theater Ensemble, the only Black undergraduate theater organization on campus, and participated in several on-campus productions. He graduated in 2020 with a BA in Psychology and completed the Multidisciplinary Academic Program in Human Rights. Beginning in the 2023/2024 school year, he will be obtaining a postgraduate degree in acting in the United Kingdom.
We chatted with Jordan to learn more about his experience and why he loves ArtStream.
ArtStream: Tell us about yourself. What is your background, and how did you get involved with ArtStream?
Jordan: I started acting almost fifteen years ago when I was ten, and throughout my artistic journey, I’ve also become a director, playwright, and more. I knew about ArtStream many years ago-I knew someone who acted in one of the companies-but never thought I would end up directing a company in the future. Last year, I was in between jobs and saw a job application to be a director for one of the Gaithersburg companies, so I decided to apply and see what happened. I ended up getting the job, and it’s my first theater-related occupation post-college!
ArtStream: How did you first get involved in theatre?
Jordan: When I was in elementary school, my parents tried to figure out what activity would suit me best. My older brother was into several different sports (and excelled in all of them!), but I was the opposite. When I was ten, my mom enrolled me in one of Lumina Studio Theatre’s summer-stock shows. From that point on, Lumina became my home; it was all acting and theater for me, I couldn’t get enough.
ArtStream: Why did you decide to become an ArtStream Director?
Jordan: Theater is such an incredible art form; there are endless stories to tell in countless ways. I was enticed by the idea of devising an original show with a company of actors who have a wide variety of experiences and interests. I wanted to come to rehearsal each week with a group of people who love performing, taking risks, and always bringing their personalities to the room.
ArtStream: What is something the ArtStreamers would be surprised to find out about you?
Jordan: I used to be a dancer! In middle school I took hip-hop classes, and in high school I trained in ballet, modern, and contemporary dance.
ArtStream: What do you feel is most important to teach/offer your students?
Jordan: A safe and comfortable rehearsal environment. Creating work is difficult and almost impossible in a space where you don’t feel valued or aren’t comfortable displaying vulnerability. “Mistakes” and choices we ultimately don’t fall in love with are what make great art.
ArtStream: What advice would you offer to someone who is nervous to perform on stage?
Jordan: It’s totally fine to be nervous! Instead of judging yourself for the way that you feel, lean into it. Think about how nervous energy can be useful and use it to boost your performance. Also, bring up how you feel to your fellow performers because, chances are, they’re nervous as well about at least one part of the show.
ArtStream: Please share an example of something that happened at ArtStream that really inspired you.
Jordan: Recently, we finished doing a set of two recorded read-throughs of the script. It was only the actors’ second week with the script, but they were so focused as a company we finished the second read-through in under an hour. It was great to see everyone delve into the script with so much attention and care for the process.
ArtStream: What kinds of changes have you seen ArtStream students make in classes and rehearsals?
Jordan: I’ve seen my actors make bold choices and go outside of the box in several instances. Over the past few months, I’ve gotten to witness bigger risk-taking in acting, music, and choreography.
ArtStream: What is your favorite play or musical?
Jordan: Picking one is super hard. If I can only choose one, it would be Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks. If I can sneak a second in there, Choir Boy by Tarell Alvin McCraney.
ArtStream: If you could create a new play or musical about anything, what would it be?
Jordan: Inspired by Suzan-Lori Parks’ 365 Days / 365 Plays a few years ago, I decided to do the same and wrote a play every day for a year. They ranged in length from no words and just stage directions to multiple pages. I’d love to turn two linked ones into a full-length play, about a future where the United States is seemingly a utopia, but a soldier in the military doubts the history he’s been taught and must decide whether or not to fight against the system.