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Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre Founding Artistic Director Donald Jordan announces retirement

Donald Jordan [Photo provided]
Donald Jordan [Photo provided]

Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, an award-winning professional regional theater, announced today that Founding Artistic Director Donald Jordan will be retiring next year. 

Jordan will transition to the title of "Founding Artistic Director emeritus" in summer 2021, according to a news release.

“The reputation of the Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre was built by the hard work of Don Jordan and our community has greatly benefited from his commitment to the organization’s mission to serve Oklahoma's diverse artistic, educational and civic needs by providing dynamic, professional theatre,” said Cliff Hudson, the theater's board president, in a statement. “We wish him great joy in his much-deserved retirement.”

Jordan has led OKC Rep since 1998, when a group of Oklahoma and national artists created the theater, which became the first year-round Actors Equity professional theater in Oklahoma. The founding company included Jonathan Beck Reed, Ruth Charnay, Marcellus Hankins, Michele Wilson, James Tyra, Elaine Pfleiderer, Russell Webster, Charlotte Franklin, Jackie West, Michael Jones, and Kirk Rogers. 

Jordan and Reed had spent many hours imagining ways to build OKC a professional regional theatre during their years together in New York City and while they performed in the national touring company of the Broadway hit "42nd Street." 

OKC Rep performances began in the fall of 2002, and the theater has presented more than 85 productions, most of which were world, national, regional, state or Oklahoma City premieres. 

"Having recently turned 39 (for the 24th time!), I celebrated my 62nd birthday and my 45th year in professional theater. With nearly a quarter of a century building and leading the remarkable artists at OKC Rep, as well as a decade before that in leadership at other theatres around the country, I have been incredibly fortunate to enjoy so many opportunities to collaborate with remarkable artists and, I hope, to have been of useful service to others, to our community and to our art. It has been a privilege and an honor," Jordan said in a statement. 

"I have been preparing for this transition for several years so that it would be a graceful and smooth evolution. Now, suddenly facing the challenges of the COVID pandemic and our temporary halt in production, a silver lining is having more time to deal with the complexities of finding my successor now if we expedited the process. I hope to help ease the transition for the next artistic director so that they can continue to build on the foundation we have worked to create, while bringing their own unique artistic vision to Oklahoma City, and sharing our diverse stories."

Jordan's leadership and artistry has been recognized nationally, regionally, and throughout the state of Oklahoma. Under his tenure, OKC Rep became the first theater in Oklahoma City history to be granted membership in the Theatre Communications Group, the national association of leading American professional theaters, in 2010. 

In 2016, Theatre Communications Group Executive Director Teresa Eyring issued a special public commendation that called Jordan "a vital part of the fabric of the national theatre community." In January, TCG featured Jordan as one of 12 national creative leaders in American Theatre magazine, the national periodical of the American theater. 

In 2012, the American Theatre Wing - best known for presenting the Tony awards for Broadway theatrical achievement - presented its National Theatre Award to Jordan and OKC Rep, stating that he had "articulated a distinctive mission, cultivated an audience, and nurtured a community of artists in ways that demonstrate the quality, diversity and dynamism of American theatre."

Jordan's community-building efforts have included more than 20 co-productions with other Oklahoma theaters, educational and nonprofit institutions, including the University of Central Oklahoma, the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Community College, Guthrie's Pollard Theatre, and Oklahoma City University. 

One of these, a production of "The Grapes of Wrath" in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the novel's publishing, became designated the official national production by the Steinbeck Foundation. This co-production also involved the Oklahoma historical Society, OCU and the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority, which featured the production in the television feature "Back in Time." That program was awarded a regional Emmy Award in 2015. 

Actors Equity Association has twice recognized Jordan's work at OKC Rep, in 2011 and again in 2016, in special proclamations honoring him as "a cultural leader whose hard work and dedication demonstrates a continuing commitment to the excellence of theatre." 

In 2011, Jordan was honored with the Governor’s Arts Award, the highest recognition for the arts given in the state of Oklahoma, recognizing his leadership and service to the arts. Also in 2011, OKC Mayor Mick Cornett issued a proclamation hailing Jordan for artistic leadership and contributions to Oklahoma City. 

In 2015, Oklahoma Senate issued a proclamation recognizing Jordan's work with Leadership Arts, and in 2018, Gov. Fallin declared March 17 "Donald Jordan and Jonathan Beck Reed Day" in Oklahoma, honoring both men for their artistry and service. 

The cast of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre's production of "A Tuna Christmas," Jonathan Beck Reed, left, and Donald Jordan rehearse at the Civic Center's Freede Little Theatre in Oklahoma City, Thursday November, 10 2016. [The Oklahoman Archives]
The cast of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre's production of "A Tuna Christmas," Jonathan Beck Reed, left, and Donald Jordan rehearse at the Civic Center's Freede Little Theatre in Oklahoma City, Thursday November, 10 2016. [The Oklahoman Archives]

Jordan and Reed are especially well-known as the co-stars of the popular Oklahoma City productions of the "Greater Tuna" comedies, among the longest-running shows in Oklahoma theatrical history and still the best-selling plays in OKC Rep's first 20 years. 

In addition, Jordan brought some of the American theater's leading talent to the OKC Rep stage - many for the first time to Oklahoma - including Audra McDonald, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Judy Collins, Robert Picardo, Stephen Lang, Robert Benedetti, Teri Bibb and Stacey Logan.

Jordan also was instrumental in bringing the acclaimed National Theatre Live international broadcasts to OKC for the first time, partnering with OCCC on this ongoing project. 

A graduate of OCU, Jordan was honored as a distinguished alumni in 2012, and in 2013, he was part of the inaugural group of honorees in the Performance Hall of Honor for OCU's School of Theatre, again joined by Reed, honoring their work and service both separately and together. Jordan returns frequently to OCU, OU and UCO to offer free master classes to young artists. 

He has led community service partnerships with other national and local charities and nonprofits, often while addressing social issues with staging of award-winning productions. These community service partners included The Salvation Army, National Alliance for Mental Illness, Autism Oklahoma, The Green Shoe Foundation, Integris Mental Health, Habitat for Humanity and, most notably, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Over the years, Jordan's post-show appeals to generous OKC Rep patrons have raised more than $110,000 for the latter. 

Jordan said he is looking forward to retiring after his long career as a theater artist and administrator. 

I will especially enjoy spending more time with my wife Laurel and maybe even taking the occasional day off, something you do not do often when running a theater!" he said in a statement. "Many years ago the staff at the Rep gave me the nickname of "Theatre Hurricane Overalls" (affectionately - I think!) so perhaps now I can be downgraded to occasional 'Sturm and Drang' status." 

For more information on Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, go to www.okcrep.org.

-BAM

Related Photos
Donald Jordan [Photo provided]

Donald Jordan [Photo provided]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7a28ae775b01137232abe8d3c0d9bd7d.jpg" alt="Photo - Donald Jordan [Photo provided]" title="Donald Jordan [Photo provided]"><figcaption>Donald Jordan [Photo provided]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7b48ccbee0d17cfc23668b3651df1225.jpg" alt="Photo - The cast of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre's production of "A Tuna Christmas," Jonathan Beck Reed, left, and Donald Jordan rehearse at the Civic Center's Freede Little Theatre in Oklahoma City, Thursday November, 10 2016. [The Oklahoman Archives]" title="The cast of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre's production of "A Tuna Christmas," Jonathan Beck Reed, left, and Donald Jordan rehearse at the Civic Center's Freede Little Theatre in Oklahoma City, Thursday November, 10 2016. [The Oklahoman Archives]"><figcaption>The cast of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre's production of "A Tuna Christmas," Jonathan Beck Reed, left, and Donald Jordan rehearse at the Civic Center's Freede Little Theatre in Oklahoma City, Thursday November, 10 2016. [The Oklahoman Archives]</figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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