jakub | June 27, 2023

‘It Matters Who You Know’: How Black Theatre Coalition Helped Bring Jordan Medley to Broadway

Jordan Medley, former Black Theatre Coalition fellow, says he welcomes a challenge. Medley's fellowship helped him get a foot in the door to eventually work as a company manager for numerous Broadway shows. In celebration of Juneteenth, Playbill is partnering with BTC to spotlight some must-know BIPOC artists. For today's entry, we spoke with Medley, a 2022 BTC Fellow. He is currently working as a Company Management Fellow at 321 Theatrical Management, working on productions like Kimberly AkimboTopdog/Underdog, and Wicked (which is his current project). 

Medley takes his job seriously, calling company managers the “unsung heroes of the commercial theatre space.”

The Black Theatre Coalition was founded by T. Oliver Reid, Warren Adams, and Reggie Van Lee in 2019. It works to “remove the “illusion of Inclusion” in the American Theatre, by building a sustainable ethical roadmap that will increase employment opportunities for Black theatre professionals.” The BTC Fellowship selects upcoming theatre professionals to be immersed in the industry of theatrical production, in fields such as management, directing, choreographing, and more.

Below, Medley speaks about how, even though BTC opened doors for him, but why Broadway still has a ways to go in terms of adequately supporting Black talent.

Where did you grow up?
Jordan Medley:
I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina.

What was your first experience/memory with theatre?
I was in a middle school production of Annie. It was my first show. Frankly, I didn’t know what musical theatre was.

Jordan Medley

What was your first Broadway show? 
War Horse

Are you a current Fellow/Apprentice or were you one previously? 
I am a current Company Management fellow at 321 Theatrical Management. The fellowship model has allowed me to experience management on new productions like Kimberly Akimbo, Topdog/Underdog, and Wicked. One has an indefinite run, one was a limited engagement, and the other is now the fourth-longest-running show in Broadway history.

Tell us more about your work/fellowship.
Company managers do a great deal. Truly the unsung heroes of the commercial theatre space. I can speak specifically to my experience working on Broadway. The day-to-day can be tedious with tasks like processing payroll, Amex reconciliations, show coverage, union reports, etc. Being in it, you recognize all of the nuanced nuts and bolts of what goes into production to facilitate its daily operations. I like to say, company managers have an extremely unique vantage point and act as community builders, upper management, logistical masterminds, and to some effect, chief operations officers. We are process-minded, detail-oriented folks. 

All that to say, no one day (even with its repetitious tasks) is truly the same. I’ve had the pleasure of working on so many projects from Tony parties to Wicked’s In-Person lottery.

How did your fellowship experience impact your career?
The fellowship opened doors, historically not as readily or easily accessible for someone like myself who identifies as a very proud Black, Queer, and Cis-Gender Male. Getting to really see the inner workings of the greater machine gives you great insight into where it works well, and where it fails to function in a way that promotes equity, inclusion, and all of the other significant buzzwords that we hear being shouted in popular culture (Belonging, Justice, Access, Diversity). At best, the fellowship gave me an in, what’s most important in the next step is to be thinking critically about how to keep “us” here and how to ideate thoughtful frameworks, build sustainable infrastructures, and implement meaningful policy. All action words. This process should never remain passive.

How have you found navigating Broadway as a BTC Fellow?
Being the “first,” so to speak, carries with it a certain weight, a burdensome, sometimes unwelcome responsibility to be the case study for others like me. Those who also seek meaningful employment and leadership roles in this field. I welcome challenges, as that has been my lived experience. I also recognize the importance of my efforts to advocate, speak my truth, and share my experience with those who will come after me.

What are some of your career goals and aspirations?
I have many. I won’t limit myself to listing and naming them here. Just follow my journey via social media, and whatever other ways you can think of that are reasonable. But, in an effort to answer the question more directly: Producing.

How do you feel BTC is helping you reach those goals?
BTC is providing access to its growing network of partners and fellows. One thing that remains a truth in this business, particularly in upper management, is that it matters who you know and how you’re known. 

As a BTC Fellow, do you think your voice is heard in rooms that don’t predominantly look like you? 
Depends on the context, I won’t sugarcoat it, Broadway has a long way to go before it’s adequately addressed the way that it deals with a lack of Black and Brown leadership. This is a foundational pillar in BTC’s mission-driven efforts. I will say, we are finally getting into the room. How do our institutional partners (employers, mentors, supervisors) do their part to better organize, orient, direct, and lessen harm in the space?

As a BTC Fellow, do you feel like you’re making a difference behind the scenes on Broadway and in what’s represented on stage?
Absolutely! No doubt about that. Our individual efforts as fellows are felt in various ways across our respective placements. Truly, our presence in the room is a useful step. 

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would that be?
Impossible to answer. At least for me. One thing I love about this industry is the community of creatives and all who make it a reality. Broadway truly is a magical place to work. 

How are you celebrating Juneteenth this year?
Rest, Rest, Rest, Rest. This business is tough. The schedule is tough. To sustain ourselves, we have to find ways to recharge, stay grounded, and disconnect for our own sanity. So that’s how I’ll be approaching my plans for Juneteenth.

The Black Theatre Coalition (BTC) is a 501(c)3 organization with the mission to remove the illusion of inclusion in the American Theatre, by building a sustainable, ethical roadmap that will increase employment opportunities for emerging, mid-career, and career-changing Black theater professionals. Through paid Fellowship and Apprenticeship opportunities, BTC opens doors for aspiring artists and creative leaders to have entry into the field, on-the-job-training, mentorship and potential career advancement. BTC's vision is to reshape the working ecosystem for those who have historically been marginalized from these spaces, and provide a pathway to true diversity in the arts.

To celebrate Juneteenth, BTC is aiming to raise $19,000 in support of the organization and future BTC fellows. Visit their Donation Page to help support.

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