The Garage would’ve changed my life growing up says superstar theatre producer Richard Jordan

Producer

Born and raised in Norfolk, our newest ambassador Richard Jordan is described by The Stage as “one of the UK’s most prolific producers”.

The Olivier, Tony and Emmy Award winner discovered his interest in theatre by watching shows at the Norwich Theatre Royal and Norwich Arts Centre.

It was these two venues that gave him a theatrical education and fueled his love of theatre. 

They proved influential, teaching him to realise he liked lots of different art-forms. Something consistently reflected in his work as an artistic producer.

He said: “If The Garage had existed when I was growing up, I think it would have changed my life. Not only in the hub and community it would have afforded me, but also with the fuel for creativity that empowers those who step through its front doors.

“For me, discovering the theatre was something of a secret passion. At the comprehensive school I went to in Norfolk, you didn’t even do drama as a GCSE subject.

“Admitting to other kids at school that you were interested in theatre would not have been particularly cool.

“When I did tell my school careers officer that I wanted to work in theatre, both they and my teachers spent the rest of my time there actively discouraging me from ever pursuing such a career.

“Looking back on it, that makes me feel sad. Yes, I am grateful that I didn’t listen. But their reticence in discouraging such a career path came from a lack of understanding about it.”

As they say about those who come from Norwich and Norfolk, you can go but you can never leave.

“As youngster, I used to walk past The Garage on my way home from watching Saturday matinees at the Norwich Theatre Royal. My mind exploded about what I had just seen and I dreamt about working in the theatre.

“Back then, it was a workshop and store for the Royal. Today, The Garage is a bustling hub of creative life for our city that’s making thrilling cultural connections and creatives discoveries for young people.

“It’s where the young me finds myself exchanging hands with my older self who is still curious and still dreaming.”

Richard left school at 16 and began his career as a stagehand. He then trained and worked in stage and theatre management in the subsidised and commercial theatre sectors.

He said: “It does not matter where you come from, if it’s something that you want to do, then with hard work and commitment it can be possible.

“It’s important as you take your own creative journey to always keep your mind open and be nimble to so many creative possibilities.

“Get out there and discover new things – whether that’s live performance, digital, books, music, art or many other creatives ways that inspire you. These experiences can result in the most thrilling – and sometimes most unexpected – cultural collisions.

“Never close your mind off to possibilities. One of the great things about the creative arts industry – and to enjoy a long life working in it – is that you never know what or where you might be inspired by next, and then how that can connect to you and your life.

“There is a musical called Sunday In The Park With George by the composer Stephen Sondheim. It’s about a French artist called George Seurat. 

“At the very end of the show, he turns the page of his drawing book and says ‘white. A blank page or canvas. His favourite. So many possibilities’.

“Back in the 1980s – and being influenced by so many things in the arts and chasing a dream one day to work in them – when I first heard the album of that musical I connected with those lines.

“Remember, there is nothing more exciting in life than to make discoveries and chase a dream. That dream may ultimately take you onto different exciting paths and many possibilities you may never have expected. Always embrace the unexpected and have fun.”

Richard left the National Theatre of Great Britain in 1998 to formed Richard Jordan Productions, enjoying relationships with many of the world’s leading theatres.

“Not everyone who discovers an interest and love for the arts is going to want to work in the theatre. But making such a connection can be influential in many ways. It’s where The Garage and its programmes and activities is demonstrable.

“Whether that’s building confidence, public speaking and social skills, collaboration, teamwork, listening and kindness… Those are all skills that we take into our lives and in those we share in others.

“I am looking forward to inspiring conversations, learning, sharing, and helping The Garage continue its work. To help it inspire and empower Norfolk’s young people as a nationally recognised place for creative and social development.

“Post-Covid, such organisations have never had a more vital role to play especially within the communities they serve.

“Even before the pandemic, the role The Garage played in East Anglia was demonstrable. Such as reacting immediately to undertake GCSE creative courses when Waveney schools chose to drop these valuable subjects from their curriculums.

The Garage recognises that by providing a foundation in a safe and collaborative environment  where young people can come to develop life skills and knowledge through the creative arts  forms a basis for society and social interaction. That’s regardless of whether they hold an ambition to ultimately work within them.

“If these skills and support for addressing many issues affecting young people were necessary within their continued development before the pandemic, then they are vital now.

“After periods of lockdown many families have suffered devastating loss alongside economic hardship, which for many will continue.

“Amidst recovery, the role an organisation such as The Garage has to play in its community for both its recovery and renewal is so important.

“Proof of the role that it plays in Norwich and Norfolk and the example it sets to other organisations elsewhere is seen every day when it opens its doors for young people to come through at all times.

“It is an accessible environment where they feel they belong and where there is inspiration and creation in abundance – from out of which consistently comes hope, confidence, empowerment, courage, kindness, and optimism.

“I would encourage anyone to drop by The Garage and see this for themselves, why the work they do is essential and to get involved.

“I have long been an admirer of the trust, of Executive Director Adam Taylor, his talented team and their terrific achievements in Norwich and across the county.

“Some years ago, I brought a production to the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. For its performance run.

“Spending those days running the production there and seeing all the activity of classes and events being run around it was exhilarating.

“I have always believed the power of the arts across its many forms can change lives. I was seeing that in action and it being superbly delivered.

“On a personal note, my good friend Marney Meakin served as a volunteer at The Garage after she retired as Front of House Manager at the Norwich Theatre Royal.

“She was always such a terrific advocate and supporter that getting involved with the trust is a lovely way to remember her.”

Richard has produced more than 250 productions in the UK and 28 other countries. That includes 80 world premieres and 91 European, Australian, and US premieres which have been the recipients of more than 60 major awards.

A new writing and musical theatre specialist, he has been at the forefront of developing and presenting works by a diverse range of established and emerging UK and international writers and artists.

He often produces work with a strong social agenda which has been recognised with two Amnesty International Awards and the US Black Alliance Award.

In 2013, Richard became the first British producer to have received every notable Broadway and Off-Broadway Best New Play Award.

He is the International Producing Partner at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. In 2020 he was appointed to serve a visiting term as Distinguished Professor of Musical Theatre at Western Carolina University.

He continues to maintain a close relationship Norwich where his family still live. He has served as a patron of the Norwich Theatre Royal 250 Appeal, the Holstry Festival, and Norwich Playhouse.

In 2017 for his services to the arts, Richard was awarded the Norfolk Arts Award for Outstanding Contribution.

He is one of several new ambassadors. Joining him are:

Lloyd Gorman is an actor, musician and composer who will be familiar to our My First audiences.

Gabriel Mokake is an actor who has appeared in everything from Netflix’s Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey to several roles in Hamilton.

Alex Sturman is a dancer who has performed in many productions including Sir Matthew Bourne’s tour of Swan Lake and Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns. He regularly teachers at The Urdang Academy.

If you didn’t know, our summer term of classes starts on 25 April.

General booking opened 14 March. 

Our friendly front of house team is happy to answer any questions you may have about our classes and accredited courses. Give them a call on 01603 283382 or email [email protected]. 

Keep up to date with everything we’re up to by signing up for our monthly newsletter. You can also follow us on on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. 

suggested reads

Liked this? We'd love you to share the word

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest