DIFFERENT PLANET: The Life and Times of Edward T. Jordan: Chemist, Educator, Militant Activist, Irritant, Dreamer, Idealist, Disagreeable Person

Given the recent activities in Fergurson, Missouri, this play is particularly relevant.

The play is DIFFERENT PLANET: The Life and Times of Edward T. Jordan:  Chemist, Educator, Militant Activist, Irritant, Dreamer, Idealist, Disagreeable Person.

There are two characters in this play: the actor, who will play Edward T. Jordan, and the musician. Edward T. Jordan, talks about what it was like to be the first, Black research chemist ever hired by DuPont, why he thinks “Hoop Dreams” is a nightmare, what it was like to be educated, poor and black in America in the 1920s and 1930s, on what’s wrong with black higher education and how Edward Jordan’s insistence on high educational standards got him fired from Dunbar University, on the color of black skin, what it was like to be a Black man in the army in World War II, Black music, and finally, Edward talks about the cancer that killed him.

Running time: probably about an hour and a half, divided into two, more or less, equal parts with an intermission, or as a one act. Cast: one Black man. An individual improvising musician who reacts musically to what Edward is saying. Simple or no set. Minimal props.

A truncated version of DIFFERENT PLANET was first performed as a staged-reading at the Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency in Greensboro, VT, on August 22, 2014

David Budbill is a poet and a playwright. For more about his works go to: http://www.davidbudbill.com/

Following here is a synopsis of the play,  a review of the staged reading and short biography of the playwright.

SYNOPSIS

DIFFERENT PLANET

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF EDWARD T. JORDAN: CHEMIST, EDUCATOR, MILITANT ACTIVIST, IRRITANT, DREAMER, IDEALIST, DISAGREEABLE PERSON

a new play by David Budbill

There are two characters in this play: the actor, who plays Edward T. Jordan, and the musician/musicians.

E.T.J. talks about what it was like to be a research chemist for DuPont, why he thinks “Hoop Dreams” is a nightmare, what it was like to be educated, poor and black in America in the 1920s and 1930s, on his parent’s influence, on what’s wrong with black higher education, and how Edward Jordan’s insisting on high educational standards got him fired from Dunbar University, on the color of black skin, on what it was like to be a Black man in the army in World War II, on Black music, and finally, Edward T. Jordan talks about the cancer that killed him.

Running time: probably about an hour and a half, divided into two, more or less, equal parts with an intermission.

Cast: two people: one Black man. An individual improvising musician, a bassist or a shakuhachi player. The musician reacts musically to what Edward is saying. The actor and the musician should react to each other.

Set and Props: Simple or no set. Minimal props

A REVIEW OF DIFFERENT PLANET from Barre Times Argus/Rutland Herald, August 24,2014

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Jim Lowe / Staff Photo

Bassist William Parker and Edgar Davis perform David Budbill’s new play, “Different Planet,” in Greensboro.

If you think a young African-American can be angry about America’s ongoing racial injustice, try a well-educated successful black college professor. “Different Planet,” Wolcott poet and playwright David Budbill’s newest play, confronts just that issue with a powerful authenticity: Are black and white Americans on different planets? 

Somewhat truncated, Budbill’s latest effort was presented in a deeply moving staged reading by actor Edgar Davis and bassist William Parker on Thursday under a tent on the Greensboro Green, part of the first Greensboro Writers’ Forum. “The Life and Times of Edward T. Jordan: Chemist, Educator, Militant Activist, Irritant, Idealist, Disagreeable Person,” the play’s subtitle, pretty much tells it all, but it misses Jordan’s foremost quality: integrity. Jordan is a composite character, based on an actual acquaintance of Budbill’s in the Northeast Kingdom, but fleshed out with bits and pieces from the playwright’s experience. Like the characters in Budbill’s most famous play, “Judevine,” the feel is authentic. Jordan grew up poor in Philadelphia, but with the influence of educated relatives, he worked toward and earned a college education. His understanding of his place in the world was cemented by his World War II army experience. Although a science expert, he found himself segregated, looked down upon and otherwise discriminated against. Jordan’s first major job was as a chemist for DuPont, where he excelled. But he found himself a lone black man in a white world and after a dozen years, left to join academia. 

He became the only black professor at the fictitious Dunbar University, an institution of higher learning aimed at the African-American population. Again Jordan was fighting an uphill battle, at least as far as he was concerned. He had learned throughout his life that in order to be accepted in America, an African-American had to be better than his white counterpart. His demanding — realistic, he would say — approach led to troubles and his eventual firing by the school. Budbill’s Jordan is a bit on the self-centered side. Indeed, he doesn’t mention having a wife until near death. And he isn’t always compassionate.
His statement, “I am harsh, I am not nice, I am merciless,” is almost true. But he applies his extreme standards to himself before anyone else. Budbill’s tale takes Jordan through his fight with cancer. And even in his death Jordan had to have it his way. Finally, he sums it up, “I’ve been a lucky guy.” 

Davis, a veteran professional actor living in Hardwick, became Edward T. Jordan. He effectively reflected the man’s anger as well as his pride with authority and authenticity. “Different Planet” would be a monologue without its musical score provided by Parker, a renowned New York jazz bassist and frequent Budbill collaborator. Parker provided everything from atmospheric music to accents, to conversation through his bass and other instruments. 

According to Parker, he begins with a set score upon which he improvises. The music is essentially a character in the play. Davis and Parker collaborated in truly potent storytelling. According to Budbill, this performance of “Different Planet” was cut from the original 90 minutes to about an hour for this occasion. It’s typical Budbill storytelling in that the characters, full of defects, are convincing, compelling and sympathetic. Perhaps Budbill got carried away with the jazz references, but they were fun. Budbill is one of Vermont’s best and best-known poets. Often his plays emanate from his poetry, as in the case of “Judevine.” But “Different Planet” began with interviews with a neighbor. “Different Planet” is a compelling piece of theater combining an understanding of America’s deep racism and Budbill’s deep passion for humanity. Hopefully, it will be presented in its entirety in the near future. Presented by Greensboro Arts Alliance.
For information about the Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency, call 802-533-7487, or go online towww.greensboroartsalliance.com. For information about David Budbill, go online towww.davidbudbill.com.

Very Short Bio, September 2014 for David Budbill

Exterminating Angel Press published David’s latest book of poems, Park Songs: a Poem/Play, in September 2012.

Copper Canyon Press now has David’s latest book of poems: Tumbling Toward the End.

His latest play, Different Planet, received it’s first staged reading at the Greensboro Art Alliance in Greensboro, VT, on August 22, 2014

His next to latest play, A Song for My Father, received its third production at The Western Stage in Salinas, CA, in November of 2013.

Garrison Keillor reads frequently from David’s poems on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac.

He lives in the southwest corner of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.