Introversion is not a disease. It is an often misunderstood personality trait that can stem from shyness, insecurities, or mere social preference. Introverts are not bored. They are not stuck up. They are not antisocial. They just have a low tolerance for idle chit-chat.
Introverts are observers, listeners, daydreamers and the most loyal of friends.They are the kind of people who can appreciate silence, yet hold the most meaningful of conversations. It may take time for them to open up, but when they do, it is because they have chosen that person. They feel comfortable enough to be their wise, wacky, witty, if not soft-spoken selves with them.
But sometimes introverts can find that person or that place or that passion where they can break out of their shell. And middle school theater was where Jordan Kearney, a senior theater major and the student director of “Tape“ (1999) by Stephen Belber, was first introduced to what would later become her lifelong passion.
“I used to be the most quiet little mouse,” Kearney said. “My dad threatened me in middle school saying, ‘If you don’t take a speech class and get better at [talking to people], then I’m going to force you into public speaking.'”
And as the self-proclaimed “stubborn kid” that she was, she asked about going into theater. The question was met with skepticism, but she went for it head-on.
After sticking to it for a year, Kearney changed schools and drifted toward art before deciding to audition for a show. But her enthusiasm waned again until after she entered the college scene.
“I went to [the University of Mary Harden Baylor] for English, and they didn’t have any theater there,”Kearney said. “And I think…being deprived of that, I decided, ‘Oh, you know, I actually do want to do this,’ so I looked at Sam’s past theater seasons and I liked the shows they were doing. I thought it would be a good fit.”
Like many rising stars, Kearney started out with acting but branched off into nearly every theater field: stage management, sound design, set design, and now directing.
“I think [my favorite field] is a tie between acting and directing because one helps the other,” Kearney said. “I learned so much about acting from directing and vice versa.”
The first show Kearney performed in was the ever-popular “Oklahoma!“ by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, which was based on the Lynn Rigg’s play, “Green Grow the Lilacs“ (1931). It is an Old West tale about the budding romance between the handsome cowboy, Curly McLain, and Laurey Williams, the pretty little farm girl with an independent streak.
Kearney followed up her debut with two more musicals before landing the lead in her second go of “Oklahoma!“, which turned out to be her most challenging role to date. Before that production, she had never considered herself a singer, but lo and behold, someone thought she could be. The same thing happened in her more recent involvement in Sam’s production of the comical farce, “Noises Off“ (1982) by Michael Frayn.
“In a farce, everything is over the top, elaborate, and there are really weird circumstances where everything goes wrong – it’s absolute chaos,“ Kearney said.
Despite this unique experience, that was her favorite performance. But now Kearney has gravitated toward an entirely different sphere: the one of a director.
As every potential student director does, Kearney took her efforts to the extreme in preparing her binder for review.
“Before starting this, before I even cast the show, it’s a lot of reading the play, reading the play, reading the play, and really breaking it down,”said Kearney. “It’s analyzing the themes, working on your concepts and then getting to the logistics of it: getting an idea of what you want to do for the sets, the costumes.”
All that effort went straight to the company so they could determine if Kearney would get her shot. Not surprisingly, she did, and she set to work immediately collecting a final cast of three and crew of three, excluding herself.
“The casting process was really new to me since I’ve always been on the other side of the table,” Kearney said. “Sitting through person after person after person for seven hours a day that required a lot more mental preparation than I had prepared for.”
The tests of will never deterred her, but rather fanned the flames. Her passion and drive for success took her above and beyond to get herself and her team ready for their premiere. Her greatest challenges arose within herself. She tried to tell actors how to do things while wording it in a way where they could still discover it for themselves.
“I could tell them, ‘Hey, do this,‘ but it’s not as meaningful as telling them, “Hey, consider this, or play with this idea,” Kearney said.
To help overcome this obstacal, Kearney would take some time before every rehearsal to review the scenes the actors would practice that evening and plan out exercises or games that she felt would work for those scenes.
“We had to build these characters, figure out who they are make sure they’re not the typical ‘blah blah blah’ variety,” Kearney said. “We did a lot of, ‘Okay, this is your character, so what were they like in high school…what were their favorite songs…[and] what were their favorite movies as a kid?'”
Activities such as these provided a foundation for the actors to get out of their heads, get into character, bond with each other, and – what Kearney considers to be the most important aspect – have fun. The goal was to avoid overthinking things and getting caught up on mistakes. Choosing to overcome roadblocks provided a relaxed atmosphere and built greater problem-solving skills.
And once again, going the extra mile paid off in the long run. “Tape“ delves into subjects that might appear shocking or uncomfortable to some viewers, and Kearney needed a cast that could pull it off believably and in a way that left their audience still pondering different facets of the production – from the overarching themes to the underlying details.
“Tape“ is about two guys, Vince and Jean, who were best friends in high school, and 10 years later they meet up in a hotel room where Vince tries to get Jean to admit on tape what happened in high school with their friend Amy.
“In our vision of it, [Vince, Jean and Amy] were all best friends, and then this traumatic event happened and that all kind of dissipated, so when they’re all back in the room, it’s like, ‘Can they get past this, or is this a pretty damning event?'”
And Kearney was pleased with the results. Her favorite part of directing was just before production when everything started to come together: when the set was finally finished, the props were all set up, getting to see the costumes and the little things that began to “click” with the actors.
“I get to see that they’re comfortable and confident with it, and I feel the same,” she said. “All the hard work has come to fruition.”
Kearney’s production debuted on April 1 with two succeeding performances on April 5 and 8. With this piece under her belt, Kearney plans to build up her resume before pursuing her masters in teaching at the collegiate level. And all of this took form at the hands of a girl who was a “quiet little mouse” in middle school.
“I think the fact that Sam provides student directing opportunities is so important because once we get out of college, we really wouldn’t be allowed to just go off and direct,” Kearney said. “We might be able to assistant director or shadow under someone, but it would be a while before getting a taste of our own show, so now that they’ve introduced us so soon, we can actually decide if…this is what we want to do…and helps us to get a directing position that much sooner.”