Nearly a fixture in the Drury theater community, Dr. Ruth Monroe has seen the department through some tough and disjointed times to the place where it is today. Nestled in the corner of the department's main office, the semi-retired (as of this fall) Dr. Monroe gladly discussed her role in the department's history.
At Drury since 1985, and department chair for the first 15 years, she has directed at least 35 major stage productions, but won't choose a favorite. "Sometimes I think the production I like best is the one I just did," she quipped with her trademark wryness when pressed for an answer. In reality, choosing would be too difficult, she explained. "I could probably pick six or seven show I enjoy, but I don't do plays that I don't like."
Following a somewhat circuitous route to Drury, Monroe picked up some unusual experience along the way. Armed with a bachelor's degree in music, she taught high school music in Missouri and Iowa for several years before picking up a seminary degree in religious education at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and worked at churches in Pennsylvania for nine years.
Ready for a change, she looked at her interests and decided that theater was the one thing she truly enjoyed. Finishing her masters and doctoral degrees in theater, she taught at Westmar College in Le Mars, Iowa, for 19 years before moving to Springfield to chair the theatre department. She finds these varied experiences useful in her theater work. "If you do theater, there isn't anything you've done that you can't use," she said. "Theater is a fairly eclectic field and I am an eclectic person."
What has been her favorite part of being at Drury? Her voice lowers and emotion enters her face as she responds, "Colleagues. It's got to be colleagues." Just that one thought is expressed. No regrets, no unfinished plans, no unfilled hopes. She gives the impression that a wide range of challenging situations mark her time at Drury, but on the whole, relationships have made a tremendous impact.
Focused on more available free time, the part-time Dr. Monroe now plans to pursue things that have been on the back burner far too long: research interests, learning foreign languages and volunteering with the Ozarks Literacy Council. "With this job, the way it is now," she said, "I might even manage to work a 40-hour week. I've never done that."