Tribute: A life and legacy, Murray Ross leaves behind UCCS theater program, students

January 24, 2017

Eleanor Sturt

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     During my sophomore year of high school, my friend and I presented two scenes from Shakespeare, one from “Macbeth” and one from “Hamlet,” to a man who was referred to as the most important theatrical influence on Colorado Springs.

     My acting partner and I arrived at UHALL and met an older man who had wild, wispy hair, wire-brimmed glasses and a toothy grin. Nervous as we were, we performed the scenes and stood in front of him awaiting his verdict.

     With his arms crossed he nodded his head and said, “Good, good, now do the scenes backwards.”

     We performed them backwards, and there we stood again, as he looked us up and down. He turned to me and said, “It is, ‘O, help him,’ not ‘help him.’”

     With that, this Shakespeare loving genius placed his hand on my shoulder and said otherwise we had done decently well. A few months later he cast me in a show, “Wild Duck.” A while later I worked with him again.

     And again. And again.

     Without Murray Ross, I can comfortably say I would not be making a career in theater. The experience of working with him introduced me to a world in which my thoughts and ideas were not only accepted, but crucial to the production.

     Working with Ross, former UCCS theater lecturer and artistic director for TheatreWorks, was an incomparable experience.

     His attitude toward theater was to be self starting; if you want to try something, try it. If you fail, at least do it with gusto. He had wild ideas and once he set his mind to one, it was going to happen, whether the budget allowed for it or not.

     Ross was born in 1942 and grew up in Pasadena, Calif. He moved to Colorado Springs in 1975 to teach English. He recognized the lack of theater in Colorado Springs and wanted a theater to work in tangent with UCCS. It was under this idea that TheatreWorks was born.

     Ross was, in every sense of the word, a teacher. He was dedicated to showing people how important theater was and how fun life could be. He was a teacher to everyone he met and a mentor to many.

     Under the guiding hand of Ross, TheatreWorks has been a functioning theater for 41 years and continues its relationship with UCCS through student involvement both on and off stage.

     He continued teaching at UCCS while he produced over 100 plays at TheatreWorks, with plays from Shakespeare, Ibsen and Chekov to devising plays, working in collaboration with other artists.

     Ross also had this fantastic ability to remind people how fun life was. There was not a rehearsal when I was not greeted by a smile on his face.

     He liked to vary rehearsals to keep the cast loose and on their toes, asking his actors to try something different. In one case, he had a troupe pretend to be cowboys robbing a saloon using finger guns and spoken gun noises to get into character for a western.

     Theater in Colorado Springs would be vastly different if it were not for Ross and his dedication to merging theater and education. The very theater program at UCCS to which I am so dedicated would be non-existent if it was not for this self-starting director and producer.

     I am forever indebted to this man, and he will be greatly missed by me, my fellow students and by the Colorado theater community as a whole.