A dean with an unwavering fervor for the arts parted ways with the Yuba Community College District in October, after nearly ten years of employment with the district.
Jay Drury, Associate Dean of Fine Arts and Language Arts, was honored by Yuba College academic faculty, administrators and community members at a farewell reception on October 18 in the Yuba College library.
Drury’s road-less-traveled to YCCD was one paved with a myriad of creative endeavors and professional gigs of renowned acting companies and repertories. He received his Bachelor’s of the Arts from Haverford College in Pennsylvania and his Master’s of Fine Arts from Brandeis University in Massachusetts before perforating the educational system with his self-professed “love affair” with the arts.
His professional repertoire has spanned the breadth of over 25 years, ranging from plying his theatrical panache at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center Theatre and the Sacramento Theatre Company, to his six-year seat as Administrative Director for the Crocker Art Museum, the oldest and most celebrated public art institution for the California Capital Region and Central Valley.
Drury’s choice to relocate from Boston to Key West in 1975 proved a fortunate one, as he was able to realize his long-time fantasy of meeting star resident and revolutionary playwright Tennessee Williams. Drury’s efforts, combined with those of a small band of fellow actors, led to the renovation of a large warehouse on Key West’s western end that would be dubbed the Greene Street Theatre in ensuing years.
A rather serendipitous meeting with Williams helped expedite Drury’s acting career and hurl him from starry-eyed roles as young male protagonist to a principal player and director for the Tennessee Williams’ Repertory Company in 1976, coupled with a very successful run with the Greene Street Theatre, which premiered several of Williams’ famed plays. Williams regularly attended the theatre’s productions, often with a star-studded entourage in tow: Jose Quintero, choreographer Bob Fosse, Pulitzer-Prize winner James Kirkwood, children’s author Shel Silverstein and novelist James Leo Herlihy, to name a few.
So it came as little surprise when Drury brought his flawless adaptation of Williams’ classic “The Glass Menagerie” to the Yuba College Theater in 2000, a production that was observably tinged with a personal and profound understanding of the playwright.
However, Drury brought much more to YCCD than an acclaimed rendering of his literary hero’s masterpiece and a passion for the fine arts. He was also a strong advocate for the language arts programs, including ESL, speech and reading. His intellect, innovation and passion were, according to colleagues, contagious.
“I never imagined being in a college drama production,” Yuba College speech instructor James Prager said. “But Mr. Drury encouraged me to audition for a small role in ‘Our Town’ about seven years ago. Since then, I’ve been in six plays, and he’s been to every one.”
Nowhere, however, were Drury’s contributions to Yuba College made more lucidly manifest than in the now-defunct Cultural Events Series, which was founded on the premise of expanding and broadening the focus of students and the community through the arts.
The Events Series, funded in the 1999-2000 school year by corporate and individual sponsors in partnership with the Yuba College Foundation, was a trail-blazing, six-installment program that featured a culturally-varied array of internationally-renown performers such as Flamenco dancer Jose Greco II and Grammy-nominated a’capella group the Persuasions. The inaugural installment of the series was a full evening on behalf of the Lakota Sioux Indian Dance Theatre, a 12-member troupe of powwow dancers, singers and storytellers who performed against a backdrop of dazzling video imagery.
Through the Events Series, the Yuba College Theatre stage was also graced by the most famous classical chamber group in the world: the Julliard String Quartet. The four-time Grammy Award-winning quartet’s 2000 performance– a spectacular homage to Hayden, Bartok and Beethoven– was received with an extended standing ovation, and was followed with a collective audience motion that Drury select more quality, on-campus cultural entertainment in the future.
Unfortunately, “Menagerie” was the final glimpse Yuba would get of the Cultural Events Series, and in spite of Drury’s appeal to elucidate the series’ benefit to the community and students, YCCD’s escalating budget problems closed the curtains for good.
Nonetheless, the impact Drury’s initiation of a series hosting such world-class performances ordinarily limited to metropolitan areas was not soon forgotten among the program’s fellow supporters.
“I have been teaching for over 34 years and have never had a dean that had a greater impact on me and my division than Jay,” said Allan G. Miller, Yuba College’s Director of Instrumental Music and Music History.
As Drury passes the baton to his successor, Yuba College students and staff are reminded of his dedication to the arts and to the faculty and students who grew under his influence as director, teacher, mentor and friend.