by Kevin Shaw
Over the past few years, I’ve described Jordan Nichols as the hardest working theatrical artist in Memphis. He’s a masterful director, choreographer and actor who is highly sought after (along with his professional/personal partner Travis Bradley) by every theatre in town. Never one to slow down, Nichols is gearing up to star in Significant Other at Playhouse on the Square as a gay man desperately searching for love as he watches everyone around him fall in love and find their significant others. Everyone wants to find love, but does not finding it mean you’re unlovable? Perhaps not. It’s definitely a relatable issue to many in the gay community and a story all should see. Focus Magazine spoke with Nichols while on break from rehearsal.
Focus: Tell us about Significant Other.
Nichols: The show was written in 2013. It follows the life of this young, gay, Jewish guy in New York City who’s looking for love. While he’s looking for love, all of his straight friends are getting married off one by one. It sort of brings into question this idea of what happens to people who don’t find a significant other in their life and possibly end up alone or have to find an alternative family. What do you have to do if you want to have kids or find a significant other in a city as big as New York where there are millions of people and dealing with the isolation and loneliness that that can cause. It’s a journey.
Focus: Did this show play Broadway or Off-Broadway?
Nichols: It started Off-Broadway and then it transferred to Broadway. It was nominated for several Tony Awards—including Best Play. My character, Jordan, is one of those roles where I’m onstage the whole time and all the other characters have come in and I’m affected by them and they’re affected by me, but it’s exhausting for this character because he’s very obsessive and so when he gets into a situation where he has a potential lover or a potential prospect to go on a date with, he becomes very obsessive about the person. He can get very ahead of himself—the cart before the horse thing. This idea of wanting to have the perfect marriage, the perfect kids and all of that and the steps it takes to get to that end result. It’s romantic comedy that still has a lot of dramatic parts to it. You know, there are certain milestones that we as a society believe we have to fulfill in order to live a successful life. We have to have a great job and get married and have kids and buy a great house—you know, check the boxes. Being able to step back and question is this the path for everyone? One of my lines in the show is, “There are a lot of great people in this world who never end up with someone.” A lot of people find happiness with themselves, but it also questions perceived happiness where you see pictures on Instagram or Facebook of other people. We compare ourselves to these people, but are they really happy?
Focus: No offense, but don’t you feel like an imposter in that you’ve been with your real-life partner (Director/choreographer and frequent collaborator, Travis Bradley) for almost 9 years now? Do you know what it’s really like to be a young, gay man looking for love?
Nichols: (laughing) I am an imposter, I guess, but also an actor! I did live in New York for many years and I did do the Match.com thing and tried to date online. It’s hard to meet people, it really is! It sounds like such a cliché, but there are so many people in that fucking city, but no one communicates. You don’t stop and talk to people on the street. You don’t have interactions, so you’d think it’d be so easy to meet someone, but everyone’s in their own bubble, so how do you meet people? You may meet someone you work with or at a bar or online. I think it’s always been an issue for people, but in that city in particular it seems to be a bigger struggle.
Focus: This is a huge philosophical question, but I’ll ask it anyway. Do you think it’s harder for gay people to make connections than straight people?
Nichols: Now, I think it’s maybe not, but when this show was written six years ago, I’d say it was because, even in a city as liberal as New York, how do you know for sure what someone’s sexuality is? Are they gay? Are they straight? I think (I can’t say for sure because I’m not heterosexual) that everyone in the “heterosexual world” assumes everyone else is straight until proven otherwise. When I was living in New York and saw a cute guy, I’d have no idea if he was gay or not. So, how do you approach that? Do you say, “Are you gay?” How do you go about meeting someone if you don’t even know if they are “on your team?”
Focus: Is this show more for gay people?
Nichols: I think it’s for all people. Even though the character is gay, the struggle I don’t think is necessarily specific to the homosexual experience. There are lot of people (gay and straight) who end up alone. There are lot of people who always end up the bridesmaid and never the bride. My character sees all of his friends get married off one by one and he ends up feeling left out and alone, but we all know that there a lot of heterosexuals who go through the same thing.
Focus: So, here’s your chance to sell! Why should people come see this show?
Nichols: It’s funny as hell. It’ll make you stop and think about your friends and their lives. It’s so easy for us to get caught up in our own lives and forget the other people around us. What is this journey of life that we are all on? It’s very real, honest and heart-warming.
Runs March 8-24, 2019