Actor juggles roles on stage and as rabbis mate

Even as a toddler, Jordan Lund could learn his lines. “When I was 2,” he recalls, “my parents taught me to say, ‘I want to be a brain surgeon.’ But I really wanted to be an actor.”

Lund did become an actor, and a successful one at that. He’s appeared in countless TV shows, several notable films, and scores of theatrical productions over the years. Now, Lund co-stars in a new stage adaptation of Willa Cather’s classic novel “My Antonia,” which premieres March 31 at Mountain View’s Center for the Performing Arts.

The Jewish actor plays three roles: German, Russian and Italian immigrants. He’s having fun juggling the accents, though the Russian character has proven to be the most demanding, he says. He speaks in his native tongue.

“It’s a challenge,” says Lund, who learned the Russian dialogue phonetically and worked with a dialect coach.

Scott Schwartz, creator of such Broadway shows as “Golda’s Balcony” and “Bat Boy,” wrote and directed the new play. His father Stephen Schwartz, famed composer of such classic musicals as “Pippin” and Godspell,” came aboard to write the play’s background score.

“My Antonia” tells the story of a Bohemian immigrant family in 19th-century Nebraska and the hardships they face on the prairie. “It’s an epic tale of the American experience,” says Lund. “There’s an anti-immigration feeling in the country right now, but this play speaks to those forces and shows them how important the huddled masses were.”

Lund descended from huddled masses himself. One of his forebears was Rabbi Chaim Luzzatto, a 17th-century Italian Jewish mystic. Most of his other ancestors came from Poland and Russia, settling in Brooklyn.

Growing up in Long Island, N.Y., and later, Florida, Lund benefited from a thorough Jewish education. He went on to study at the famed Carnegie Mellon drama school in Pittsburgh. He went on to forge a career in New York and Hollywood, working with such diverse companies as the New York Shakespeare Festival and Estelle Parson’s NYSF.

His TV and film credits include “ER,” “Frasier,” The Practice,” “Law and Order,” “The American President,” “Alex and Emma” and “Speed.”

Lund’s life took an unexpected turn when he met and married Suzanne Singer, an Emmy-winning TV producer. She underwent a midlife career change, becoming a rabbi last year. Her first pulpit posting: Oakland’s Temple Sinai, which meant bye-bye San Diego Freeway, hello I-580.

So far, Lund has enjoyed being the rabbi’s husband. He attends services at the Reform synagogue (never missing one of his wife’s sermons), and joined both the brotherhood and the choir. “I went to a Conservative temple when I was a kid. This fits like a glove.”

Though Lund still travels to L.A. frequently to teach theater and to do TV work, he’s settling into the Bay Area groove. He’s found plenty of work here, and is eager to devote more professional energy to the stage. “My heroes were Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson,” he says.

And how does Lund think Cather would like the new stage version of her novel. “The spirit of her experience is very faithful in this adaptation,” says Lund. “It’s a very moving and bittersweet show, and I can’t imagine anyone seeing this play and not feeling some connection.”

My Antonia” runs March 31 to April 25 at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St. Tickets $20-$48. Information: (650) 903-6000, or theatreworks.org.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.