How 28-year-old Jordan Cooper became Broadway’s youngest Black American playwright

Abu Mubarik December 06, 2023
Photo: instagram/jordanecooper

Meet Jordan Cooper, the youngest Black American playwright in the history of Broadway. In May this year, he received 6 Tony nominations for his play “Ain’t No Mo,” which includes “Best New Play,” “Best Featured Actor in a Play,” and “Best Featured Actress in a Play.”

The play is a series of short comedy skits compiled against a framework of a strange future. The Play’s website discloses the provocative question, “What if the U.S. government offered Black Americans one-way tickets to Africa?” 

The play is said to move faster than the transatlantic jet plane, as the satirical comedy speeds through the turbulent skies of being Black in today’s America. Cooper’s play received early support from “big time” producers like Dwyane Wade, Gabrielle Union, Lee Daniels, and RuPaul Charles.

The play faced imminent closure approximately one week after opening on December 1, 2022, and took a social media campaign to get it going, however, its curtains closed again on December 23, which Cooper called a “frustrating experience.” Even though the play had a short run on Broadway, it is one of the top Tony-nominated plays of 2022. It also received a lot of praise from viewers.

Cooper started writing plays when he was only six years old and could not even properly hold a pen in his hand, according to Star-Telegram. One of his earliest plays was a conversation between Santa Claus and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. Although he wasn’t sure of what he was doing, he knew something was right.

“Each one of us has some kind of light to make this world a little bit brighter,” Cooper said. “Some people don’t discover that light and I’m just so grateful that I’ve discovered that light and now I get to show it to the world.”

From age six, Cooper knew he wanted to be an artist which surprised his parents. Although his parents were unsure of his career ambition, they, nonetheless, accepted his dream to be an artist. 

“As parents that’s something you need to do,” his mother, Angela Cooper said. “You need to nurture, you need to feed your children when you see that they are interested in something because you just never know where it goes.”

He studied theater at L.D. Bell High School, where he honed his art. He led his own play at Fort Worth’s Jubilee Theater, a few days after graduating from high school. Also, he attended college at The New School of Drama in New York as part of his goal to be a playwright.

The Hurst native got his breakthrough after arriving in New York from Texas. His agent had lunch with Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Lee Daniels; the agent showed Daniels some of Cooper’s work.

Cooper would later receive an email from Daniels asking him to share an early version of “Ain’t No Mo’.”  He shared. Daniels loved it and subsequently came on board as a producer. 

Fast forward to 2022, “Ain’t No Mo’” opened on Broadway in December of that year at the Belasco Theatre.

Today, 28-year-old Cooper is an Obie Award-winning playwright and performer who was once selected as OUT Magazine’s Entertainer of the Year. He has received a special citation from Obie for his play, “Aint No Mo.” According to Broadway.com, Cooper recently created and executive produced his first television project, “The Ms. Pat Show” which critics have called “One of the most radical sitcoms in the modern era.” He is also noted as the youngest Black showrunner in television history besides being the youngest Black American playwright in Broadway history.

For those seeking to break boundaries, Cooper has one piece of advice — ignore the adversity. According to him, the key to his success has been “ignoring what people say can’t happen just because it’s never happened before.” Cooper is now one of the members of the 2024 30 Under 30 Hollywood & Entertainment class by Forbes.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: December 6, 2023

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