Stage Right

By Kim Nagy, October 23, 2023
Broadway star Eric Jordan Young ’93 finds fuel for inspiration and collaboration.

Eric Jordan Young

(Photo by Adam Bakler)

For actor, director, choreographer, producer, and professor Eric Jordan Young ’93, live theatre gives us a vital “mirror” that can offer “healing and a return to self”—where we can see ourselves and others more clearly “in the warmth of darkness.”

Now a longtime Broadway actor who was voted performer of the year by BroadwayWorld (Ragtime, Seussical, Look of Love, Chicago), Young fell in love with the stage as a seventh grader. “I did a production of George M! and caught the bug,” said Young about his debut at a theatre called ArtPark, near Niagara Falls.

Later that year, Young starred in Peter Pan at his school. “I still have my script with all the highlighted things. I thought I was a pro then,” he laughed. Even in his early teens, he had IC’s musical theatre program squarely on his radar.

When he eventually enrolled at IC, he especially loved the crimson-carpeted (“Red is my favorite color!”) Dillingham lobby walkway, which leads, literally and figuratively, to IC’s theatre and welcoming community—where he found inspiration and creative refuge.

“There was a genuine concern for who we were as individuals. 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 recalled. Young not only felt nurtured as an artist, but he also appeared in 13 productions and discovered the power of collaboration.

During one of his very first classes—Introduction to Theatre taught by Roxanne Rix—he walked into a crowded classroom and a student named Wendy Dann ’93 waved him over to sit next to her. “The rest was history!” said Dann, now an IC professor, as well as a playwright and director. “We would just sit and laugh,” remembered Dann.

“There was a genuine concern for who we were as individuals. I just felt like there was a buzz—a vibe and energy that was so palpable and rich and true and honest and caring.”

Eric Jordan Young '93

“Wendy and I always had a very exciting, collaborative relationship,” said Young. On several occasions when an idea wouldn’t leave his head, Young would call Dann. After he saw I Am My Own Wife, a production Dann had directed, he asked her about transforming his cabaret act, Sammy & Me, into a play.

“Eric had conceived the project,” noted Dann, pointing out that they began their work together as actor and director, and became a writing team over time. “It has become something beyond what I ever thought it would be,” said Young.

In 2004, Young and Dann staged Sammy & Me—a one-man musical biography about Young’s childhood hero, Sammy Davis Jr. According to Playbill Magazine, the production “unraveled the complexities of being a black American caught between acknowledging racial identity and seeking to transcend race as a performer” noting that the production played to “sold out houses and solid reviews.” It was nominated for Outstanding Musical of the Year by Buffalo’s Artvoice.

“As the show became popular and got more offers, we had to add the term ‘business partners’ to our relationship,” Dann said. “But the one thing that never changes is that we are best friends.”

Almost 20 years after the first production of Sammy & Me, Young and Dann produced it for a new era. “So much has happened in the last decade in the United States,” said Dann. “We were ready to build an edgier experience.”

“I always want to feel like I’m reaching forward,” said Young