“Shear Madness” may be just a few years away from turning 40, but Bruce Jordan isn’t at all worried about a mid-life crisis.
One of the longest running non-musical plays in the history of theater, “Shear Madness” recently earned a Moliere, the French equivalent to the Tony Award, for Best Comedy for its Paris production at the Theatre des Mathurins. Sebastian Azzopardi, who trained under Jordan in the U.S., directed the show and received the award at a ceremony in Paris on June 2.
“We’re very excited because it’s a very prestigious award,” said Jordan Friday from New York City. “We were thrilled when we heard that we were nominated for Best Comedy, and it’s really exciting to win. Our agent and our lawyer in France both called to tell us we were on TV.”
Based on German playwright Paul Portner’s story, “Scherenschnitt,” the play has been named “Best Comedy of the Year” seven times by the Boston Globe, and has earned similar awards presented by the Chicago Sun-Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. It is set in a unisex salon in whatever city the production happens to be in. When the landlady, Isabel Czerny, is murdered, the audience gets involved and tries to solve the crime by questioning the actors.
“The show is updated daily,” said Jordan, explaining its success. “The cast meets before the show every day and says, ‘what happened today that’s funny?’ That way we can improv the show, and it’s always fresh and always new. Also, the audiences love comedies and they love mysteries, and this is a little of each.”
Jordan, who splits his time between Schenectady and New York City, first produced “Shear Madness” back at the Fort William Henry Carriage Barn in Lake George. He and his business partner, Marilyn Abrams, had starring roles in the first show.
Abrams, who lives in Albany, and Jordan share an office in Latham, where they oversee several productions of the show throughout the U.S. and around the world. Along with its current French production, “Shear Madness” is running in South Korea, Poland, Italy, Spain and Malaysia.
In the U.S., it continues to play at the Charles Theatre in Boston (its 34th season) and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (for the 27th year) A production opened in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this week, and another is up and running in Dallas. Jordan has shows scheduled later this summer in Milwaukee and Kansas City, where former “M*A*S*H” star Jamie Farr will be among the cast.
Other than its original production at Fort William Henry, “Shear Madness” has only been produced in the Capital Region three times. The Lake George Dinner Theatre mounted productions in 1978 and 2007, and Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany staged the show in 2009.
Jordan, a Long Island native, graduated from SUNY Geneseo and began teaching English at Glens Falls High School in the late 1960s. He left the area to earn his master’s degree in theater at C.W. Post and worked in New York City for a while doing commercials and daytime television before moving to Rochester, where he helped found GEVA, a regional theater company.
Jordan is currently directing a production of “Perfect Wedding,” beginning July 21 at the Cape Playhouse in Dennis, Mass. Once that show starts he will head to Ohio, where he is directing “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at the Cleveland Playhouse.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]