UVU: Professor takes historical storytelling to millions through podcasts, live performances
Popular Utah Valley University professor Greg Jackson has taken his passion for teaching history to the next level by creating and producing a live-on-stage production called “The Unlikely Union” that is being performed to sold-out audiences across the country. The show will make its only Utah appearance Nov. 10-11 in the Noorda Center for the Performing Arts on UVU’s Orem campus.
Adapted from his top-ranked podcast, “History That Doesn’t Suck,” the apolitical show weaves defining moments in American history (1754-1865) into a thrilling narrative of the struggle and triumph of a young nation to form, define and reform itself. Jackson’s podcast routinely tops the Apple and Spotify history charts, with over 150 episodes published and more than a million downloads each month.
Armed with a Ph.D., a guitar and a sense of humor that made his podcast rocket in popularity, Jackson takes his audiences on a theatrical journey from the American Revolution through the Civil War. He accomplishes it through the spoken word, a string quartet, immersive sound design and an engaging multimedia show.
“This ain’t no history lecture,” said show director Dossie McCraw. “I’ve come to appreciate that, although accurate, source-based history rarely fits simple narratives, good history always retains that human element, the story. In this stage show, you’ll hear from familiar and lesser-known people from the past, passionately pursuing a revolutionary idea, an idea that almost wasn’t and has nearly died a thousand deaths: that audacious idea of a union of American states. It’s about people setting aside differences to unite as something greater, even in the face of true existential crisis — the Civil War.”
Jackson has received standing ovations for “The Unlikely Union” across so-called “red and blue” states including Tennessee, New York, Colorado and Montana. The next performances will be Dallas on Oct. 6; Austin, Texas, on Oct. 7; Orem from Nov. 10-11; York, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 18, Mesa, Arizona, on Jan. 20; Modesto, California, on Feb. 3; Livermore, California, on Feb. 4; and Schaumburg, Illinois, on March 1.
Jackson’s expertise in history has also led him to appear on History Channel documentaries, other major history podcasts and radio. He served as a historical consultant for the podcast “American Elections: Wicked Game” and appeared in History series “Abraham Lincoln” and “The Engineering That Built the World,” including an episode that details the construction of the Statue of Liberty.
According to Jackson, it was a six-month process from beginning to end of his History Channel experience. It started in late spring 2021 when the producer first called, with the premiere episode airing on Oct. 10 of that year.
When asked if he would consider doing another series with History, he said, “I love working with the History Channel. It’s become an ongoing and just flat-out fun part of my career. I’ll keep making shows with them for as long as they keep calling.”
Whether on set, on stage or behind the mic, his first passion is teaching, which is evident from the praise of his students and his following on and off campus. Jackson is a perfect fit at Utah Valley University, where faculty are encouraged to innovate and share their expertise with passion and excitement, engaging their students in ways that help them retain what they have learned and discover how to think and reason.
“Dr. Jackson will change the way you learn and is honestly the best teacher you can take at UVU. If you enjoy history, politics or national security, he is your teacher,” said one of his students on Rate My Professor.
Tickets for Jackson’s only Utah performances of “The Unlikely Union” live on stage at UVU’s Noorda Center for the Performing Arts on Nov. 10 and 11 can be found at uvu.edu/thenoorda or call 801-863-7529.