Local theater director to lead Texas Thespians

By Dwayne Wilder
For the Herald Democrat
Amy Jordan

Denison High School’s Theater Department director will be stepping on the next stage in her career next month, but she will continue to be around here behind the scenes for years to come.

On July 1, Amy Jordan will begin her new role as executive director of Texas Thespians, a new position created by the executive board recently for the organization.

“This is a new challenge and opportunity for me,” said Jordan, who just completed her 20th year at DHS. “I’m excited, too, because I’ll get to stay in Denison. I’ll be traveling a lot, but I’m not moving.”

Jordan will be the group’s first executive director. She has been the local chapter director for the past nine years, a volunteer position.

“I am stepping away from the classroom, but I will still be working with students to get them engaged at the next level,” said Jordan, who is originally from Southlake. “I’m nervous, but excited; new beginnings, you know.”

Texas Thespians is an honors organization for theater students. It is a part of the second largest non-profit theater association in the U.S., the Education Theater Association. Texas is the second largest group within the national organization.

“We not only help students, but we focus on teachers too,” explained Jordan. “We have conferences for teachers, professional development for them. We want to help teach teachers to be better teachers. Our students are only as strong as our teachers.”

Jordan noted, the Texas organization strives to empower teachers, which will in turn produce better performances and thus, better students in the long run.

“Ultimately, it helps students,” she said.

In addition to the teacher aspect, the Texas organization holds student conferences – where some 8,000 students attend annually – workshops, competitions, scholarships, and the annual state festival. There is also a middle school level program.

“We do a lot of outreach," she said. "We have a leadership academy. Part of our mission is to train students to be better leaders. This is an amazing organization and a good opportunity for me.”

Jordan will travel the state during the school year doing workshops and trainings. She will also participate with other state organizations. She is a certified One Act Play judge as well; and will work in theater management along the way.

“This feels a lot like when I came to Denison in 2001," she said. "I feel like I am needed. I want to change how theater and fine arts is seen. I want to be making change. I want people to recognize the power of the arts in children’s lives, its impact. This job fits. I want to further arts education and help students. Now, I can do it statewide.”

Jordan will strive to ‘make a difference’ in teacher’s and student’s lives in her role as state director; just like when she came to Denison.

“I’ve had kids who were two years old when they saw their first play at DHS," she said. "It’s what got them to us all those years later. That’s powerful. I want the program in Denison to continue that; and I want campuses all over the state to do that, too. I know there will be amazing productions; and I want to be part of that driving force in all our communities.”

One of the milestones while at DHS is the theater facility located at the new Denison High School. Jordan is quick to credit Superintendent Henry Scott and the local Smith Foundation for its creation.

“It’s a great facility," she said. "I’m thankful for their support and for everyone’s support of the arts in Denison. I want the arts to still be a top priority in Denison. I still live here. I want it to be good!”

As she has gotten into her career, Jordan admits that she ‘always knew she would be in administration’ someday. As she focused on theater at Southlake Carroll High School and Texas Women’s University, she also was an equity stage manager to get a taste of that side of theater arts.

“The arts changes lives,” she said. “It happened to me. I was an athlete until I was injured and couldn’t play; the theater teacher asked me if I wanted to help. I fell in love with it all; the creative process involved! I never looked back.”

Jordan equates the discipline and dedication athletes must have to be successful to the theater world. It is that foundation which makes both fields work: the teamwork and camaraderie, too.

“Putting on a play is extremely challenging," she said. "It’s not that easy. It can be exhausting. What’s fun is the performing part, just like athletics. You never see all the practice, only the games. It’s like that for theater too.”

“I want to give that to new generations of children,” said Jordan. “I think it is amazing. Kids need a place to express themselves, to be free to be themselves whether it be dance, singing, acting, painting or poetry. It makes you. I want every kid to have that opportunity.”

In addition, Jordan believes that as students come together to do plays/musicals, it is a great place for them to grow as people.

“There are so many faucets to productions: management, sets, lighting, music, technical and acting, of course,” she said. “All those people coming together for a common good. And along the way, they all learn from one another. I want to be a part of that at the next level. This seems to be the right path for me. I feel like I’ve made an impact in Denison. At least, I hope I have, and I want to make an impact on the next stage.”

Jordan noted that her time at DHS has been filled with memories; and she will take them to her new state position.

“So many amazing shows; I will never forget them!” she said. “Denison is such a great place to live and thrive.”

For more information on student theater, visit texasthespians.org or schooltheater.org.