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Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

The student news site of Westwood High School.

Westwood Horizon

Behind the Scenes: Assistant Director Ashley Jordan Hones Her Craft

Ashley Jordan
Hard at work, Assistant Director Ashley Jordan ’24 stays on top of tasks at an evening rehearsal. A role within the theater program that is often overlooked, the assistant director is an integral part of every production. “So much goes into directing,” Jordan said. “Even [for the] musical, I feel like people don’t think that I’m doing as much as I am. But a lot more goes into it than people think it does. ADs are putting a lot into the show, and I feel like that just goes unnoticed sometimes.”

The stage is dark and quiet. The moment’s stillness washes over the auditorium, but only briefly. Backstage, a cue is whispered into a walkie-talkie. The lights go up, the music starts, and performers rush to the stage, ready for their moment in the spotlight. And while she may not be on the stage with them, none of that would be happening without Assistant Director (AD) Ashley Jordan ‘24. 

Assistant directing is not the first thing many people tend to think of when they think about the theater program. In an elective full of flashy performances and grandiose sets, the behind-the-scenes aspects often go forgotten. When Jordan started doing theater in middle school, inspired by her older siblings, she originally wanted to be an actor. 

“I was like, ‘Yes, acting, that’s what I want,’” Jordan said. “And then I never got cast, but I still wanted to be in the production. So I was like, ‘Oh, well, I’ll do tech stuff.’”

On somewhat of a whim, Jordan applied to be an assistant director for Canyon Vista Middle School’s production of Macbeth when she was in eighth grade. She got the position and discovered a passion for the behind-the-scenes aspects of theater. Jordan went on to become assistant director for the remainder of her middle school’s shows that year. By the time she got to Westwood, Jordan knew that she wanted to continue to pursue directing. 

“At that point, I knew that I’d like to do the tech side of things,” Jordan said. 

Initially, Jordan didn’t think that she was able to be an assistant director as an underclassman. For the first two years of her time at Westwood, she stuck to other technical roles within the productions. At the beginning of her junior year, Jordan took a chance and applied to assistant direct on the fall show — Puffs.

“Junior year was Puffs, and I loved [working on] Puffs,” Jordan said. “At that point, I knew that I liked directing, especially [at] Westwood and with Mrs. Coats.” 

The responsibilities of an assistant director are incredibly demanding. The AD works throughout the entire process of a theater production from auditions to closing night, working closely with the director of the show, the actors, and the various technical departments to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

“[It can be] very stressful,” Jordan said. “But it’s also rewarding. I hate being there until 10 p.m. [during musical tech week] but even then I still miss that experience once it’s over.”

This year, Jordan has been the assistant director for the fall production of Triangle Factory Fire Project and is currently working simultaneously on the UIL one-act production of Merry Wives of Windsor and the winter musical, Mean Girls. It’s the first time in recent years that the musical has had an official assistant director. 

“What’s rewarding about it is that it’s a much bigger production when it’s a musical,” Jordan said. “I love putting on the plays, and that’s still a big production, but [the] musical [is] just that one step further.”

Despite all the hard work they put into shows, assistant directors rarely receive the recognition they deserve. 

“So much goes into directing,” Jordan said. “Even [for the] musical, I feel like people don’t think that I’m doing as much as I am. But a lot more goes into it than people think it does. ADs are putting a lot into the show, and I feel like that just goes unnoticed sometimes.”

[Assistant directors] are putting a lot into the show, and I feel like that just goes unnoticed sometimes.

— Ashley Jordan

For Director Ms. Lydia Coats, Jordan’s work is integral to the process of putting on a production. 

“I find as a director, who is also a teacher, that there’s so much involved in a production, one person can’t handle it all,” Ms. Coats said. “Having a reliable assistant director takes a position that would be overwhelming for one, and splits it into something manageable for two. So it’s really good for me as a director to have that support from a student.”

However, student assistant directors like Jordan get more out of the experience than just staying on top of a never-ending list of tasks. 

“It’s great for [the student] because they grow as a creative person,” Ms. Coats said. “I think for all the work that I am provided by somebody like Ashley, she’s getting a lot out of it [and] building skills for her future work, and Ashley’s just fantastic at [assistant directing]. She’s had lots of experience now as a senior, and she’s just really great to have by your side.”

Looking forward to her future beyond the Westwood stage, there are many lessons Jordan has learned from her time as an AD. 

“I want to pursue theater in college, so obviously I’m sure that will help me there,” Jordan said. “But also I feel like theater, and being an AD has made me much more outgoing because I have to talk to people who I wouldn’t necessarily always talk to. Everyone kind of knows me, and I know everyone.”

Beyond discovering a passion for directing, Jordan’s time in the Westwood theater program has led to her developing countless memories and cultivating many friendships within the department that she’ll cherish long past her final curtain call. 

“I still vividly remember Spongebob closing night, and Triangle closing night and all the cast parties,” Jordan said. “I know it’s a really broad topic but the community as a whole [is something I’ll take with me] because I found so many friends.”

As the curtain falls on Jordan’s time at Westwood, she hopes to be remembered for her dedication to the theater department over the years. 

“I just kind of hope that people are like, ‘Oh, I miss Ashley,’” Jordan said. “I don’t want to say I just want to be talked about, but also I do want my name to be brought up. I don’t know if there’s a specific thing that I want to leave behind, just that I was a hard worker.” 

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Mayla Montgomery
Mayla Montgomery, A&E Editor
Class of 2026
I have always had a passion for writing and telling stories, and I am so excited to be working on press this year! When I’m not writing, I love watching my favorite shows, watching all the horror movies in existence, reading books, listening to music, and spending time with my friends and family.

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