by Lorie Lewis Ham
This Valley is filled with wonderful talent of all kinds. This week we are profiling local actor and singer Jordan Litz, who came to Fresno thanks to being recruited by Fresno Pacific University to swim for them in 2011.
Jordan is originally from Stockton. He attended high school in Lodi and then went to San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. “I began there majoring in architecture because I had always loved to draw and was a math whiz, but that was not meant to be. One weekend I had the opportunity to see Bobby McFerrin do a solo concert in Modesto and it blew my mind. I specifically remember sitting in the audience as he was doing an arrangement of ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and thinking to myself, Jordan, what the hell are you doing with your life? You need to be singing. So the next semester I switched to vocal performance and eventually ended up honing my craft at FPU.”
When you see Jordan perform on stage, it’s hard to believe he hasn’t been involved in theatre for very long. “While I’ve been singing my whole life, I only started acting a year and a half ago. As a requirement at FPU, I needed to perform in a musical to graduate and so in my final year in school I finally found acting in the form of Captain von Trapp in “The Sound of Music.” I absolutely fell in love with taking on a character and combining my musical skills with something completely new and challenging.”
He has only had five roles so far-Eddie Birdlace (Dogfight, StageWorks Fresno), Rapunzel’s Prince (Into the Woods, StageWorks Fresno), Lt. Cable (South Pacific, Good Company Players), Tony (West Side Story, Good Company Players), and Captain von Trapp (The Sound of Music, Fresno Pacific Theater).
Local actor Terry Lewis worked with Jordan in Into the Woods-they were the two princes in the show. “He is so incredibly focused and dedicated to being the best performer he can be. We spent hours together going over our Prince scenes, doing them over and over, line by line, to get them exactly the way we wanted. We worked so well on stage together because we’re very similar in that way. He’s so talented, with a beautiful voice and technique, he’s actually very funny on stage, and he has fantastic theatrical instincts. His potential for a career in this business is tremendous. On top of everything else, he has also become a really good friend, like another brother to me, and I’m very proud to have had a chance to work with him and watch him on stage.”
What Jordan loves best about being in a musical is the combination of acting and singing. “As an actor you find a way to connect with the music on a much deeper level than you do if you just ‘park and bark’ the song. Having only sung my whole life it is very easy to get caught up in the technical parts of singing (intonation, proper vocal technique, diction, etc). But when I act, the character brings the song to life. I’m living the music rather than just singing a beautiful song.”
While acting and singing at the same time is the most rewarding for Jordan, he also feels that it is the hardest part of musical theatre. “It’s so easy to let your emotions take over, especially in a song full of pain and anguish, and then the technique falters and the song isn’t performed the way it deserves to be performed. It’s a fine line that a singing actor walks on stage.”
Jordan believes that what has helped him grow the most as an actor this past year and a half is having gotten the chance to play so many different roles and work with many different directors. “Each show had its challenges and each director had a different style of directing that I benefited from.”
“Jordan is one of the most disciplined actors I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” shared Joel Abels, who directed Jordan in the StageWorks Fresno production of Dogfight. “His dedication and commitment to Dogfight was amazing and absolutely shines on stage. The honesty he brought to the role of Eddie Birdlace was beautiful as was the chemistry between he and co-star Ellie West. He is a very talented young man with a bright future!”
“As an actor Jordan is very committed, yet still fun to be working with, learning each line word for word, and willing to get together any time,” said Ellie West. “We even ran lines while on a 15 mile bike and long board ride together. Jordan has this drive that I know will get him far, he’s lit a fire beneath me and I know we will work together again on Broadway!”
Jordan’s advice to those pursuing acting is to develop a thick skin and become as versatile as possible. “The performing industry is a brutal place and if you’re not mentally strong it will chew you up and spit you out and then do it to you again tomorrow. You will hear 100 no’s to every yes, but if you can carry a big bag of tricks and know how to show off those tricks, that will increase your chances of getting hired for a gig.”
As far as a dream role for Jordan, it would be a role that no one else has ever played. He would love to originate a character–to be the first to play a role. “The idea of starting from a blank slate on a character with no preconceived ideas of how that character should talk, walk and sing is so exciting to me. And once you originate that role, audiences will always think of you as that character no matter how many actors play it after you.”
When it comes to balancing work and theatre, Jordan has the luxury of being his own boss, which helps a lot. He works as a studio vocalist and has a business creating learning tracks for a cappella groups, something he started back in high school. “Eight years later it has really taken off and allowed me to pursue other performing opportunities all while growing this business of mine.”
The only negative part of his job is having to be careful not to overwork his voice since he spends his days recording and constantly using his voice, and then goes on stage in the evening. “As a result, I have developed a very detailed vocal maintenance regimen that I implement every day, which shall forever remain top secret.”
When asked about his heroes and the people who have inspired him, Jordan has three. His parents, who he says have stuck with him through good and bad and been to all of his performances and many swim meets, his friend Tim Waurick who has been like a big brother to him, and tennis player Roger Federer. “Not only is he (Roger) a gifted athlete, but he is incredibly intelligent, with an analytical approach to his game, not to mention speaks several languages. He is a passionate husband and devoted father and the most humble person you could imagine. He has set the standard for the type of character I want to emulate as I make my way through my career.”
In his spare time, Jordan enjoys all kinds of sports. “I particularly love to swim because of my background in competitive swimming. The water is such a mental release for me that I almost need it in order to get through my week.”
While Jordan would love to end up on Broadway someday, his biggest desire is to just use his talents to move and inspire people in the same way that he has been moved and inspired by other performers. Unfortunately for Fresno theatre goers, Jordan will be taking his talents to the East coast in November when he moves there to work at Disney World in Florida.
You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.