For his senior capstone project at the University of Tulsa, Jordan Herskowitz lays it all out there with his one-man show Jordy Pordy: Taking the Bull by the Horns.
The piece is the writer/actor's reconciliation with his past, his future, his family and his religion. And it's brutally honest, especially for someone so young.
It all began, Herskowitz said, in New York City, where he saw Billy Crystal's one-man show 700 Sundays, about his family and growing up in Long Island. Herskowitz, whose ambition is to be an actor, said he was mesmerized by the way that Crystal could hold the audience's attention, inspiring him to begin jotting notes and journaling about his own family and life.
"I was amazed at how he captivated the audience for so long," Herskowitz said of Crystal's show. "I felt like he was just talking to everyone like he would in a living room or at the dinner table, telling life stories. I felt challenged to create something, as a writer and actor, to tell my story to an audience like I'm just sitting down with them for coffee."
Much of the show revolves around Herskowitz's career as a mascot (he's been the Chik-Fil-A cow, Hornsby for the Tulsa Drillers and the Golden Hurricane's Captain Cane). He said being a mascot, he realized, was about trying to escape from who he really was. Within the costume, he could be whoever he wanted to be.
He also delves into growing up Jewish in Texas, his trouble with the opposite sex (he attributes to the assumption that he's gay), growing up sandwiched between two brothers both sick with cystic fibrosis and losing his younger brother, Richie, a couple of years ago.
For someone so young, I was very surprised, as I watched Herskowitz rehearse the show last weekend, how unflinchingly honest he is with himself. I think it'd be hard for a young man to admit that he has trouble getting into relationships with women because so many of them assume he is gay.
He also speaks openly about what it was like to lose his brother and what it took for him to find his religion.
The show opens with Herskowitz dressed in a bull costume, putting on a show for fans at a minor league baseball game on his first day of work. From there, Herskowitz reveals how he came to be a mascot and what he really thinks of the kids who constantly coo, scream, spit and kick him while he's in costume.
At the same time, he feels like a celebrity in his mascot suit.
"People have no idea who I am, but they love me," he said.
He also introduces us to his family, committed to playing each character and giving the audience a sense of knowing who his family members are. And they are most definitely Jewish. Coming to terms with his religion while growing up in Texas and then moving to Oklahoma for school (sort of on accident) is also explored.
The majority of the piece is funny, but, toward the end, as his younger brother Richie grows sicker and his body rejects the lungs it received in a transplant seven years earlier, Herskowitz attempts to come to terms with his illness and death and what they mean for him. The result is somewhat sentimental, but Herskowitz closes the show optimistically, with the idea of traveling with it, performing it at schools, churches and small theaters, hoping to convince people to be an organ donor when their time comes.
Overall, I was very pleased with Herskowitz's performance with what was a well-written and performed one-man show.
I asked him if his family had seen it and, if so, what they thought about it, and he said they all received it well.
"The first person I read it to was Richie," said Herskowitz. "Even though it was my journey through what he was going through, I wanted to make sure it was still true to him and didn't misrepresent him."
Herskowitz will perform Jordy Pordy Sat., Nov. 15 at 8pm and Sun., Nov. 16 at 2pm and 8pm in Theater II of Kendall Hall on TU's campus. Tickets are $5 at the door and all funds will be donated to Richie's Spirit, a new non-profit Herskowitz started to promote organ donation.
Puppets Less Wild
On Fri., Nov. 14 and Sat., Nov. 15, Andrew Agee, the mastermind behind the hilarious and risqué Puppets Gone Wild, will present Together Again, a family-friendly variety show incorporating puppets and humans, to benefit the Agee Arts Group, a non-profit focused on arts education for children and adults.
Together Again is about Raymond, a blue puppet with cool hair, who seeks and ultimately finds his purpose in life through interaction with his friends, all of whom come from various diverse and unique backgrounds. His experiences lead Raymond to discover his purpose, which is giving back to the community around him.
Andrew Agee Productions will present Together Again at the Tulsa Little Theater, 1511 S. Delaware, Fri., Nov. 14 at 8pm and Sat., Nov. 15 at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children for evening performances; the matinee is $15 for adults and $5 for children. For tickets and other information, visit puppetmancan.com.
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