Des Plaines' Katie Jordan tackles warrior role in all-girl 'Iliad'

Des Plaines' Katie Jordan tackles warrior role in all-girl 'Iliad'

  • Des Plaines' Katie Jordan, left, plays Trojan warrior Scamandrius in Craig Wright's all-girl version of "The Iliad" at A Red Orchid Theatre.

    Des Plaines' Katie Jordan, left, plays Trojan warrior Scamandrius in Craig Wright's all-girl version of "The Iliad" at A Red Orchid Theatre.

 
 
Updated 11/10/2010 3:08 PM

Ask someone to name literary classics least likely to be performed by an ensemble of girls between the ages of 9 and 14, and Homer's Trojan War epic "The Iliad" would surely be high on that list. Yet here is 10-year-old Des Plaines resident Katie Jordan playing Trojan warrior Scamandrius, the son of Troy's greatest hero, Hector, in Craig Wright's all-girl version of the epic now at Chicago's A Red Orchid Theatre.

"All of the girls play men," Katie Jordan says. "All of the girls (in the story) are played by Barbie dolls."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The unusual casting comes from the playwright's desire to give teen and preteen girls the chance to play characters they would never get to normally.

"The Iliad" is packed with famous male heroes and gods from Greek literature including Achilles, Apollo, Ares, Ulysses, Paris and Agamemnon. The tale has only a handful of female characters.

"The play is all about Greek mythology," Katie says. "It is about Hector and Achilles and all of the Greek gods. There is this whole war that has been going on for nine years because Paris took Helen from King Menelaus."

Katie, who has been acting since she appeared in a production of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in kindergarten, is thrilled by the challenge of getting into the heads of Homer's heroes.

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"You just have to think," Katie says. "Pretend like you have boy cousins and they are fighting."

Then again, according to her father, Dave Jordan, his daughter has never shied away from a challenge.

"She absolutely loves being onstage," her father says. One of her first chances was a dance recital when she was just 3.

"At the recital, many of the kids ran to their parents and didn't perform," Dave Jordan recalls. "Katie stayed on the stage and really nailed the performance."

It was that love of a challenge that landed Jordan a part in A Red Orchid's holiday comedy last year "A Very Merry Unauthorized Scientology Pageant." She also became part of A Red Orchid's youth ensemble, an after-school program that introduces young actors to all facets of stage work, including stage combat (a skill that comes in handy in a play about war).

"The idea of the young ensemble comes from the idea that most children's theater does not give kids full exposure to how theater works," says Steve Wilson, founder of the youth ensemble and "Iliad" director. "This is not a children's play. It is a play that will give the actors and the audience a full, complete experience. There are people who say kids cannot communicate honesty and power onstage. I think they can and do."

Certainly, Katie Jordan communicates nothing but enthusiasm about the show. "We started rehearsing three months ago," Katie says. "The playwright, Craig Wright, came to some of the rehearsals and switched up some of the lines. And we just had our first dress rehearsal. It was really fun."

• "The Iliad" is running in previews at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells, Chicago. The show opens Monday, Nov. 15, and runs through Sunday, Dec. 19. For tickets call (312) 943-8722 or go to aredorchidtheatre.org.