Destination Broadway! What Led Ain’t No Mo’ Playwright & Star Jordan E. Cooper to Create His Buzzy Satire | Srtalent
Jordan E. Cooper
(Photo by Caitlin McNaney for Broadway.com)
What if the U.S. government offered Black Americans one-way plane tickets to Africa? That’s the question playwright and perfomer Jordan E. Cooper asks in Ain’t No Mo’, which is now playing at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre. Cooper, who stars in the play, which had an acclaimed world premiere production at the Public Theater in 2019, sat down with The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal correspondent Charlie Cooper at Sardi’s to talk about bringing it to Broadway.
Ain’t No Mo’ marks Cooper’s Broadway debut. At 27, he is the youngest American playwright on Broadway (the previous record-holder was Lorraine Hansberry, who was 29). “I’ve been a Broadway baby since I was a baby,” he said. “I’m so honored to even be a part of the community and no longer just be standing on the outside adoring everybody and everything. Now I can do the thing and do it eight times a week. I’m so hype. This is not a play that’s supposed to be on Broadway, it’s not the traditional. It’s not A Raisin in the Sun, you know what I mean? I always told people that you’ll know in the first five minutes whether or not you’re going to be able to sit through that 90-minute show. It’s an explosive event.”
As both the playwright and star, Cooper finds that the two jobs often inform the other. “You know what’s so interesting is that going into itas the actor, especially in this point in time,” he said. “I’m making script changes and doing very minor things, but for the most part I’m really approaching it just as an actor. I’ll be talking to Stevie, my director, and he’ll be like, ‘What do you think about this?’ And I’ll be asking questions like, ‘What did the playwright mean?’ That’s the beauty of it. I’m so grateful for the gift of both because I feel like acting makes me a better writer and writing makes me a better actor.”
Cooper has been developing Ain’t No Mo’ for seven years, and it all started with a question. “This was a play that I never thought anybody would ever produce,” he said. “I started writing it in late 2016, early 2017 when Philando Castile and Alton Sterling got murdered within a week of each other. I’m that kind of person who always says that I like to laugh at funerals. I’m like, ‘Why is her wig crooked? Why is she wearing bra if she’s going six feet under?’ I just always have to find some kind of joy. I feel like there is something to laugh about in the perseverance of a thing. My way of laughing at it was like, ‘What if we all just went back to Africa?’ And in exploring that thought, more challenges and more questions came up for myself. So, while I was laughing, I was asking questions and challenging the answers in a very specific way.”
Watch the interview below and head here to check your local listings for The Broadway Show. Hosted by Fadal, it is the only nationally syndicated weekly theater news program.