David Jordan

Forty Under 40 Winner 2015: Executive director, First Vancouver Theatre Space Society, Age 39

David Jordan, executive director of First Vancouver Theatre Space Society, which produces the Vancouver Fringe Festival, discovered his love for theatre during his formative high school years. But before the curtain would drop on his search for a stage to call his own, he travelled and studied around the world.

Those high school years were formative in part because of opportunities that developed his abilities as a director and production manager. Jordan was double-timing – taking college preparation courses while remaining enrolled in his high school’s theatre class – when opportunity came knocking.

“Our drama teacher had to go on leave for personal reasons at that time, and so I ended up co-directing our play for the drama festival,” said Jordan. “We took on a lot of responsibility.”

The seed was planted, but Jordan had more work to do before the budding director within would be exposed to the spotlight. He did some of that work with an exchange program called Canada World Youth during which he lived in both rural Quebec and Tunisia. “Both of these immersive cultural experiences broadened my world view hugely,” said Jordan.

He went on to get a bachelor’s degree in drama for human development from Concordia University in Montreal, and then to Ohio University for his master’s in directing. While living in Montreal, Jordan and his wife decided to move to Vancouver, where Jordan saw “a hotbed of new theatre directors and creators.”

When he took over as executive director 11 years ago, the festival was facing a $100,000 deficit. Under Jordan’s direction, the festival has climbed out of debt, nearly doubled attendance, doubled revenue and quadrupled sponsorship revenues.

For his part, Jordan humbly defers much of the credit, professing he knew nothing about financial management and acknowledging his dependence on others.

His role with the First Vancouver Theatre Space Society completed the circle that he had started to draw during those pivotal early years in the youth exchange program.

“I was a strong, outspoken young man,” he said. His mentor called him on it. “She said to me, ‘Sometimes leadership comes by making space for other people.’ She taught me to value the power of a team.”

Birthplace: Prince George, B.C.

Where you live now: East Vancouver

Highest level of education: Master of fine arts, Ohio University, professional directing theatre

Currently reading: The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck

Currently listening to: Radiolab podcasts

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: Actor

Profession you would most like to try: Author of children’s books

Toughest business or professional decision: In my first year, we had to close operations for a box office that served the theatre community. It was an important service, but we just didn’t have the resources at the time to right the ship once it began to leak – working capital, business plan or human resources. That decision affected a lot of people both internally and externally. Although it was hard, doing that allowed us to focus on our core operations (the Fringe Festival) and grow sustainably from that place of scaled-back operations

Advice you would give the younger you: Start with an audit and take accounting courses


Join us to celebrate the 2015 Forty under under 40 Awards January 27, 2016 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/events/40under40.