Alumnus Bruce Jordan turns love of theatre into successful career

Bruce Jordan '66 puts his pants on one leg at a time. But once they're on, he writes world-renowned plays. He went to Geneseo and walked the same paths we do. Now, he and his partner Marilyn Abrams own the world rights to "Shear Madness," the longest running American play in history.

Jordan is the president of Cranberry Productions, which holds "Shear Madness," among other productions, in its care. The show is produced all around the world. It has been performed in Athens, Greece for 12 years, is currently running in Seoul, South Korea and will soon be opening in Paris, France. It's been performed in the United States for 31 years.

For those of you who wonder if your Geneseo education can give you any opportunities in life, take heart.

As a speech education major, Jordan said that Geneseo's professors fed the theatrical fire that high school drama ignited within him. In Brodie Hall, there are theatres named after former professors Alice Austin and Robert Sinclair. "They were the two professors that influenced me the most and gave me that wonderful education," he said.

After teaching theatre to students in a Glens Falls, N.Y. high school, Jordan longed for the next horizon. He went to New York City, using his acting experience to his advantage when he interviewed for work in advertising. "I was one of those lucky, lucky people who, early on, landed big commercial jobs," he said. Though Jordan is very humble, luck probably wasn't the only thing that got him on three Superbowl commercials during his career.

Good money and the big city wasn't enough to keep Jordan nailed down, though. Two friends were starting a theater in Rochester and asked him to act in or direct some of the first shows. This is how Jordan became one of the fathers of the Geva Theatre. "I said I'd come out for like three months," he said. "Well as it turned out, I loved it so much … I stayed there for four years."

It was during Jordan's time at Geva that Jordan came across the German play "Scherenschnitte" - translated literally as "scissor cuts" - which he adapted into a comedic murder mystery tailored to an American audience. The result was "Shear Madness."

Since its inception, the play has been smashingly successful. When it ran at the Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo, it paid the venue's deficit for the entire year. A credit to its origins, it is also the all-time box office winner for a play at Geva.

The key to the play's success, Jordan said, is that the writers' script customized jokes with local news and public figures for every location the show goes to. Jordan said that after 31 years, they are still constantly rewriting.

When he brought the show in Rochester, Jordan said, "We inserted the name Nick Tahoe and the garbage plate into the play and the audience - I thought they were going to pee."

Jordan said that making his career as successful as it is today took a lot of time and hard work. He auditioned for everything, even roles he knew didn't fit him, just so that when the right one came, he'd be ready. "I made all my mistakes on a small stage," he said. "By the time 'Shear Madness' came to me I was knowledgeable and aware of what we had to do with it."

Jordan said success is a combination of things, and most of them are up to each individual. "It's incredibly hard work," he says. "Luck does play a part in it, but you have to know when you're lucky and what to do with your luck."

For more information about "Shear Madness" or to order tickets, visit