Eric Jordan Young ’93

Eric Jordan Young ’93 finds fuel for continual collaboration, creative refuge, and transformation where he launched his career—IC.

Eric Jordan Young ’93 performs at the South Hill State of Mind show.

Eric Jordan Young ’93 performs at the South Hill State of Mind show. (Photo Credit: Kerry Regan)

For Broadway actor, director, producer, and professor Eric Jordan Young ’93 (Ragtime, Seussical, Look of Love, Chicago), theatre is like a mirror that offers “healing and a return to self” where people can see themselves, others, and the world around them more clearly “in the warmth of darkness.”  

“I do just love the fact that theatre can change minds, especially live theatre. You can walk in one way and walk out feeling completely different,” said Eric, who won a Broadway World Award for Best Performance as Lead Actor. In addition to his onstage accolades, he is the founder of EnJoY Productions—an allusion to his initials and typical sign off: “Enjoy!”    

Eric first fell in love with the theatre in the seventh grade: “I did a production of George M and caught the bug!” Later that year, he starred in Peter Pan at his school, and the experience solidified his decision to pursue a career in musical theatre. “I still have my script with all the highlighted things. I thought I was a pro then,” he laughed. 

By the time Eric started applying to colleges, the musical theatre program at IC had been on his radar for years. “Ithaca was a school that had a really strong acting program and a terrific musical theatre program, so I was very attracted many years before I even had the opportunity to apply to the school,” he said. 

 “I do just love the fact that theatre can change minds, especially live theatre. You can walk in one way and walk out feeling completely different."

Walking the Red Carpet  

If Eric staged a musical production about his road to Ithaca College, he’d likely set the opening number on the crimson-carpeted Dillingham walkway. “My favorite color is red, so it gave me a lot of power,” he remembered about the first time he walked into the performing arts hub at Ithaca. “I just felt like there was a buzz, a vibe and energy, that was so palpable and rich and true and honest and caring,” he said.  

Not only did Eric graduate with 13 productions under his belt, but he also worked on campus: “I was the voice answering the phone at the student center, ‘Ithaca College information, may I help you?’” He joined organizations like the African-Latino Society and was part of the Educational Opportunity Program. He never stopped pitching new ideas—whether he was asking to sit on a faculty committee or collaborating with the technical teams in the theatre arts department.  

Failure was built into Eric’s expectations as a theatre artist, especially as he prepared to audition in New York City and launch a career on Broadway. He advises students to steep themselves in their craft but also take risks and almost invite failure. “I didn't expect to come to the industry, let alone New York City, and be some incredibly successful person at the start,” he said.  

The Momentum of Creative Refuge 

As Eric gained traction in the theatre industry, he continued to find collaborators and a creative home through IC. In 2004, he worked with fellow alumnus and current IC faculty member Wendy Dann ’93 in the IC studio to cowrite Sammy and Me. The play is a one-man musical about Sammy Davis Jr. and Eric’s own experiences “unravel[ing] the complexities of being a Black American caught between acknowledging racial identity and seeking to transcend race as a performer” according to the show’s Playbill notes.  

“Being inside of your own story is very enthralling. It enriches your soul and it feels amazing. But there’s this other part of it that is so scary,” said Eric. "I remember the first night that we were about to present this in Buffalo, New York, which is where I’m from. It was very exciting because it was my hometown, but at the same time … I had a little bit of a mini panic attack.” Yet the results were tremendous: The show played to packed houses and strong reviews. He earned the 2006 Buffalo Artvoice Theatre Award for Outstanding Visiting Artist, and the show was nominated for Outstanding Musical of the Year. 

In 2018, Eric returned to IC again when the theatre arts department asked him to direct Ragtime, which by then he’d performed on Broadway and on national tour.  
“Not only did I fall in love with the show all over again, but I fell in love with the department and where the department is going, and where the department is leading other artists and their students in the profession. I was very impressed.” 

Eric’s next act? Eighteen years after the first production of Sammy and Me, Eric and Wendy are again working together in the IC studios to bring a new version of their musical to life for audiences this summer. “I’m back on the red carpet, ready to do something that is so connected to my soul and to my truth.” 

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