Levittown senior in the spotlight

17-year-old hopes for career in musical theater


Jordan Coene would be busy if she were two people. Besides a full round of classes, the senior at General Douglas MacArthur High School has assembled a resume of professional experience as an actress, model and singer

that performers years older would envy.

Last month, the 17-year-old Coene (pronunced coon) was recognized by the Long Island Arts Alliance and received its Award of Merit as part of the organization’s Long Island Scholar Artist Program. The award, which focuses on both academics and arts, is sponsored by the New York Community Bank Foundation in cooperation with Newsday. She joined 19 other outstanding high school students at a gala presentation at the Tilles Center on Sept. 12.

To be eligible for the award, students must have earned an unweighted grade point average of 90 or more and showcase their excellence in the arts with performance recordings or portfolios of their work, as well

as an essay, according to the LIAA website. Coene has a 97.8 average.

Coene’s junior English teacher, Kristin Mund, nominated her for the award. “She brought life into every lesson with her whimsical smile and passionate attitude,” Mund said. “Her rendition of Abigail Williams, from Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible,’ is one for the books! For years and years to come, I will not find another student who can breathe as much life into that character.”

“It’s such a great honor that arts are being recognized in today’s schools when I know it’s a big issue in other schools,” Coene said.

Theater has been part of her life since she was 8 years old. “Since the moment I stepped up on stage, I knew that this was going to be my career,” she said. Her love for theater first emerged when her synagogue, Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh, staged the show “Annie.” Her mother suggested that she try out to see if she would like it. Until then, she had never seen or heard about theater, she said.

“The first rehearsal, I remember coming out, and she [asked], ‘How do you like it?’ And I just had the biggest grin on my face,” Coene said. “I haven’t stopped, and ever since, I’ve been in over 150 productions. I lost count after 150.” She said that sometimes she is in four or more shows at a time.

As she gained experience, Coene began getting professional engagements. She has sung in the Macy’s Day Parade for the past five years, she said. She has also been in a few commercials, including an anti-bullying campaign with television personality Stacy London, and a few modeling advertisements. She performs in local theater productions, as well as in New York City.

She has attended the Broadway Workshop in New York City, which gives children and teenagers professional training in acting and musical theater. She also has been involved with a few off-Broadway shows.

Coene performed in the MacArthur show “Legally Blonde” in her freshman year. She also studies at the Long Island High School for the Arts, which counts as her first class of the day at MacArthur.

At the LIHSA, Michael Tester is training her in physical theater, which encompasses stage combat — the techniques for mock-fighting used in plays, movies and television. She hopes to become more skilled in stage fighting with Tester’s help. “My teacher for stage combat is actually helping me with a fight scene in my movie,” she said.

Coene received two callbacks for NBC’s “The Voice,” once in 2016 and again in 2017. She was also cast as a maiden in the 2014 television series “The Hunt with John Walsh,” and as a fairy in the 2016 film, “The Otherworld,” a fantasy film directed by Gisela Pereira. She said she enjoyed being a part of the TV series and movie, adding that she loves “anything with the arts.”

As if all that weren’t enough, Coene also sings, dances and acts in her temple’s shows and has written her own movie. She said it took her a year to write the script, called “Run Away With Me,” which has been optioned by Director Steven Bornstein.

“It’s about runaways and how it’s a silent epidemic in today’s society,” Coene said. “I wrote this film to raise awareness, because everybody has heard of runaways, but nobody really knows a lot of details, and I feel like it’s very much left unsaid in society. I want to get these kids some help.”

The movie revolves around three main characters: a girl who runs away from home because of parental sexual abuse; a boy who runs away due to his parents’ divorce and his mother’s drug addiction; and a girl whose parents kicked her out of the house when he became pregnant. She works as a prostitute.

Bernstein and Coene are currently touching up parts of the script before starting casting for the film. Coene said they are still scouting locations, but she hopes to shoot in New York.

“I actually started the movie I wrote to just get a grasp of different ideas for film in acting, and I was surprised when it got this far,” she said.

Currently, she is in two shows — “All Shook Up,” at Temple B’nai Torah, and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” being staged by the Phoenix Repertory Theatre Group at the Babylon Citizens Council on the Arts in Lindenhurst. Both shows are local, because Coene is focusing on preparing for college. Her first choice is Ithaca College, where she hopes to study musical theater.

Her parents and college-age brother, she said, are willing to do anything to help her with her career. “I’m very lucky to have a very supportive family for what I’ve done,” Coene said.

“Jordan is an extremely talented young lady whose passion and love for theater and the arts is truly remarkable,” said MacArthur High Principal Joseph Sheehan. “She deserves every recognition and accolade that is bestowed upon her.”