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Friday, March 24, 2017

Donica shatters stereotypes about ‘How to Succeed’

Photo: Kristen Davis / Otterbein360

Jordan Donica walks with the swagger of an athlete, speaks with the booming voice of a singer and exudes the presence of an actor.

He does not appear to be a stereotypical theater student, as his tall, lanky frame dressed in swishy athletic pants and a quarter-zip sweatshirt make him look more like he was plucked from a weight room rather than a stage.

The freshman BFA musical theater major from Indiana has a lead role as J. Pierrepont Finch in Otterbein’s rendition of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”

Donica was born in Minnesota and then lived in Chicago and Tennessee as well, but didn’t pursue acting until he moved to Indiana when he turned 8 years old.

He went to a Catholic high school in Indianapolis and grew up playing basketball and football, as well as doing theater.

“It made me more disciplined,” he said. “In order to do all of those things, you have to have good grades. And so, it really helped me focus more. I think that if I wasn’t involved in all that, I would have just kind of laid around and not done anything.”

As a part of his school’s theater program and as a player on the football team, Donica balanced two different identities.

“I played football,” he said. “I was on the team, but I wasn’t good until junior year, so the people on the football team freshman and sophomore year kind of made fun of me. I was the kid who played, but not really, so people made fun of me.”

In high school theater world, his identity was a different story.

“I made an impact in the theater world my freshman year,” he said. “So they were like, ‘Oh, you play football, too, so it’s cool you can do that.’”

Donica said that he finally earned respect from his teammates on the football team after he devoted the summer after his sophomore year of high school to improving at football.

“I’m one of those people that if I’m not good at something I’m interested in, I’ll work as hard as I can to be good,” he said.

His hard work paid off, as he started for the varsity football team during his junior year.

Off the field, Donica’s love for theater began after seeing “The Phantom of the Opera” when he was a kid.

“My ultimate goal, like my dream, is to be the phantom of the opera,” he said.

“I’ve seen it five times. It was the show that made me realize that I wanted to do theater.”

Donica said that one of his main goals in theater is to change people’s views regarding stereotypes of what kind of person could play a certain role.

“What a lot of people these days think of when they think of ‘How to Succeed,’ they imagine Daniel Radcliffe, who played J. Pierrepont Finch, or Robert Moore or Matthew Broderick,” he said. “Short little white guys, and that’s what I thought, too.”

While Donica explained the importance of shattering stereotypes on stage, it sounded like he could have almost been talking about his own identity as an individual who balanced the role of an actor and an athlete.

In fact, Donica said that he discovered Otterbein his junior year of high school when he was initially looking at Ashland University to play football.

His aunt, who lives in Columbus, encouraged him to visit Otterbein and investigate the musical theater program. He was reluctant at first, but soon fell in love with the school.

“If I didn’t get in to Otterbein for musical theater, I’d be playing football somewhere else,” he said. “It’s kind of like fate.”

Here at Otterbein, he said that he loves the close-knit feel of the theater community and the emphasis on ensemble and support.

“Yeah, we all compete for roles, but no matter what happens, we’re all there for each other,” he said. “At the drop of a hat, we would all go into battle for each other and would all have each other’s backs.”

Donica explained that there are a lot of theater communities where the attitude tends to be every man for himself, but that’s not the case at Otterbein.

“You can see that obviously in the lunchroom and theater people walking down sidewalks in packs,” he said.

But when he leaves the Otterbein community in future years, Donica said that he has a long list of things he hopes to accomplish.

He wants to be a teacher. He wants to be a director. He wants to be on Broadway, too. But that’s not the end of it.

“I obviously want to be on Broadway,” he said. “I’ve learned that (Broadway) is an awesome destination, but I’ve learned that that’s not the end-all, be-all of theater. Once you get there, all you can do is keep growing.”

Donica said that he hopes to avoid an office job and always be acting.

“As long as I keep growing in my craft,” Donica said. “I will be satisfied no matter what I’m doing.”

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