Columbus Makes Art Presents: Director Jordan Davis on Waiting For Godot
Red Herring Productions takes on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot, one of the most influential plays of the 20th century, running through Oct. 28 at the Franklinton Playhouse. We caught up with director Jordan Davis to talk about her background in theater, her love of Beckett and her ideas for his most famous play.
Michael: What’s your theater background and how did you get into directing?
Jordan: My passion for the stage stems from dancing at a very young age. I realized what I loved most about it was the emotion I could portray and the story I could tell through movement. As a teenager I started to get involved in theater, but it wasn’t until I went to New York the summer I turned 19 and studied the Meisner technique at The Neighborhood Playhouse that I realized just how deeply I loved the craft of acting, becoming another character and living in that character’s circumstances as fully as possible.
At Wittenberg University, where I received my BA in Theatre & Dance, I was gifted lovely opportunities not only to perform, but to choreograph movement pieces and direct shows. As much as I love being on stage, I find so much joy in being the one behind the scenes putting all the pieces together to make a cohesive and impactful experience for an audience to witness. I lived in Los Angeles for six years, I acted in some low-budget films and on stage for small companies, I performed and choreographed for several dance companies and I had the ability to direct a few original shows for the Hollywood Fringe Festival but I found myself feeling uninspired artistically. In moving back to Columbus about three years ago, one of my biggest goals as an artist has been to find more opportunities to direct and act in works that speak to me. By forming a connection with Red Herring Productions, and now serving as Associate Artistic Director for the company, I see so many possibilities ahead of me to do work I feel passionate about.
Michael: Do you have a favorite production you’ve worked on? Why is it your favorite?
Jordan: Waiting For Godot is a big one for me. I directed the play nearly a decade ago as my senior thesis project at Wittenberg University. At that time I chose to direct the show because I thought I might not ever again get the opportunity to direct this incredible piece, which is truly one of the most seminal works of 20th century drama. And now here I am 10 years later with a new perspective, a new space and a new cast to bring my vision to life. What has always intrigued me about this show is its seemingly simple concept — two men waiting for a man named Godot to show up — but it then unfolds and displays the truly complex nature of the human experience.
Michael: Any dream shows you’d still love to direct?
Jordan: Oh, there are many! But the next show I’ve got my eye on for directing is Peter Shaffer’s Equus. It is a beautifully dark show that requires emotional depth from its actors and an acute eye from the director for finesse of the style and choreographed flow of movement through the piece.
Michael: What artists have inspired you?
Jordan: Given my fascination with Waiting For Godot, I’m sure you’ve surmised I am a pretty huge Samuel Beckett fanatic. But I am a lover of theater and art in many genres. I draw inspiration from Shakespeare, Bob Fosse, Judy Garland, Edward Albee, Merce Cunningham, Sam Shepard, Sanford Meisner, Mary Oliver, Jack Keruoac, Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, Charles Chaplin, Meryl Streep… and the list could go on.
Michael: What was your general concept for Waiting For Godot?
Jordan: A lot of folks think of Waiting For Godot and they expect it to be this dark, boring tale about two men waiting. But from the first time reading it, I saw these two guys as a sort of Laurel and Hardy pair. Beckett writes a ton of humor into this show that I think is often sorely ignored. The crispness of physical movements and the timing of verbal exchanges must be done to precision to create this effect of a vaudevillian duo. I was blessed to work with some phenomenal actors for this show. Hendrick and Herring, who play Vladimir and Estragon, both come from a physical movement background, dance and mime. It allowed me to really play up these physical bits and moments of humor to lighten up what is otherwise a pretty bleak look at our human existence.
Michael: What do you hope audiences take away from the production?
Jordan: Time passes. And it’s up to us how we use it. It is also up to us to support and love one another so that as time passes, it is just a bit more pleasant and fulfilling.
Michael: If you could have dinner with any artist (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
Jordan: Who else? Samuel Beckett!
Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting art and advancing culture in Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Each column will be written by a different local arts organization to give you an insiders look at how #artmakescbus.