All the world’s a stage for versatile SWC director

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TRIPPINGLY ON THE TONGUE– Southwestern College theatre instructor Ruff Yeager entrances students during an impromptu performance of a monologue from “The Laramie Project” at a Gay Straight Alliance rally.
Photo by David McVicker

Ruff Yeager’s father, an evangelical preacher, knew how to put on a performance to inspire an audience.
Yeager has the same skills, but prefers to perform on stage.
SWC’s busy adjunct theatre instructor and director has staged some of the best works seen in Mayan Hall in the past five years. He has inspired scores of students and thousands of audience members with his bold but disciplined work.
“I care for my students and want them to succeed in the theatre department without them making fools of themselves,” said Yeager. “So either they go big or they go home.”
Andre James Gonzales, an SWC communications major, has been in four Yeager productions and will appear in his production of “The Laramie Project.”
“He is always there to help the young actors whenever they ask for it,” said Gonzales. “He is a great director and a great professor, and he’s extremely patient.”
“The Laramie Project” was the seventh play Yeager directed at SWC and the 18th of his career. He brought life to Moises Kaufman’s Tony Award winning reflection on the murder of Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student. Yeager said it was an economical play and a compelling story.
“Apart from it having an inexpensive set and costume design, it is a play that has an excellent structure and captivating plot,” he said.
Yeager recently performed at UCSD in an opera by Anthony Davis titled “Lear on the 2nd Floor.” He is currently appearing on the production “Gray Gardens” at Ion Theatre.
Yeager studied communications at Evangel University, a private Christian university in Springfield, Missouri. About 25 years later he earned his Master’s in theatre and dance from Missouri State University. Soon after Yeager returned to San Diego County to be part of the Playwrights Project where he taught, directed and was a writing mentor from spring 2004 through spring 2011 at secondary schools. He found himself at SWC helping his son, Jeoffrey, in the play “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” portraying Dr. Frank N. Furter.
“At a summer festival in 2008 the SWC Theatre Department approached me and graciously offered me a teaching job, so I took it,” he said.
Yeager began teaching Elementary Acting II in 2009 as an adjunct instructor and directed “You Can’t Take it With You.”
“Directing, composing and acting brings the component of all those things to the concept of teaching,” he said.
At SWC he has taught Theatre Workshop, Studio Performance, Elementary Acting I, Elementary Acting II, Introduction to Dramatic Scriptwriting and Survey of Drama.
Assistant Professor of Theatre Design Mike Buckley arrived at SWC two years ago. He and Yeager became great friends and colleagues, he said. They have collaborated on five plays, including “The Laramie Project”.
“He always prepares and puts in a lot of hours for his productions,” said Buckley. “He does his research for each play he directs, and is always concerned on what he teaches and what his students are learning.”
In May Yeager will be departing to Utah.
“For four months I am going to be part of a theatre festival about love, labor and loss,” he said.
When he returns Yeager said he will direct the show “She-Rantulas from Outer Space” with his friend Phil Johnson, who wrote the play.
“The show will be about what would happen if gay people took over the world in the ‘50s,” he explained.
Rehearsals will be commencing on September and the play will open before Halloween.
Yeager composes, acts, sings, plays the piano, directs, and retrieves items from high shelves and cabinet tops, he said. With all that talent it is surprising that a big city theatre in New York or Los Angeles has not scooped him up for the big leagues. He said he hopes to one day be part of a Shakespeare festival and direct and appear in more Tennessee Williams plays, but for now his goal is to teach.

Shakespeare and Williams would surely approve.

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