What He Does Jordan Jaffe founded Black Lab Theatre in 2011 while still an undergraduate at Rice University. On the day we spoke, he was preparing for the opening night of Black Lab's most recent play, Chinglish, to be shown at Asia Society Texas Center through May 26.
"I bring new, interesting plays to Houston," he said, before rattling off a plethora of other tasks, from choosing the theater's seasons to working with marketing and development. "I kind of basically do it all."
"I also usually take a creative role, either acting or directing, but with Chinglish, it's been so massive, I am only producing."
Jaffe didn't start out in the theater, though. He originally started school as an Asian Studies major, until a chance encounter turned him on to theater.
Black Lab Theatre was founded two years ago when Jaffe coordinated a production with two friends in a basement on the Rice University campus. At the time, Jaffe was studying theater at the school. After that first play, he decided to start looking for places around town to put on plays.
"It kind of turned from something I did on the side while I was finishing school, to finishing school on the side while I put on plays," he said.
Why He Likes It "It's fun," he said. "It really tests me and challenges me to the core. Back when I was just acting, I felt a little underutilized."
What Inspires Him "New plays," he said. "I breathe and sleep new plays." Jaffe aims to bring plays to Houston that have never been here before and that other theaters wouldn't bring.
"I like something I've never seen before. When I'm reading a play, I know I'm gonna do it if I can't put it down. I really like contemporary plays that are sharp and relevant to our times."
"Chinglish I've been working on for over a year. I think it's a generation-defining play. In the 1940s and '50s they had Tennessee Williams and guys like that. We have David Henry Hwang."
If Not This, Then What? Jaffe's grand plan as a new college student was to go to school for Asian Studies and then join the Central Intelligence Agency. As a high school student, he'd studied abroad in Japan and had gone on a trip to China sponsored by Rice's Baker Institute for Public Policy.
Then he had a chance encounter at the Galleria.
"I was approached by a model scout," he said. "So I gave it a try and I was horrible at it. But then I thought I'd give acting a try."
Soon, he was changing his majors and producing plays in basements at Rice. He took some time off to study acting in New York and Los Angeles, then came back to Houston, his hometown, to finish his theater degree.
"Not having a theater background, I have a little bit of an outside view of things," he said. "I really see what I'm doing as entertainment. You can't lose sight of the fact that you're putting on a show for an audience."
If Not Here, Then Where? "I'm a big-city kind of guy," he said. Maybe New York or L.A., but I'm just really honored to be producing this play in Houston. Houston's done a lot to make me who I am, and I like the fact that I can have a profound impact on this city."
What's Next Because Black Lab Theatre currently makes use of other spaces throughout the city, Jaffe said his biggest goal is to find a home for the young company.
"I'd like it to be in a very central location, either downtown or close to downtown."
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Other than that, he's working on pulling together the theater's next season.
"Nothing is final yet, but we are looking at some award-winning pieces."
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