A lover of cats, ties, the Navy and theatre, Dr. Brian Ray admits how strange it sounds. The ABAC professor has always said, “The Navy was an occupation, but the theatre is a passion.” Most people know Ray from their freshman year of theatre appreciation. They also know how eccentric he can be. Ray always starts the first day of classes by explaining himself to his students. He says every semester, “You will never see me in the same tie twice. I have enough for a whole year and then a bit more.”
He also calls himself a “cat daddy,” which always earns a laugh from his students. He has six cats that stay in his home and has now taken up the responsibility of feeding the neighborhood strays in his area. He says he has always liked cats because they might seem tough on the outside, but if you can get them to trust you, they will be excellent companions for life.
Ray was raised in the Midwest and got involved with the theatre when he was in high school. While he didn’t exactly know what he wanted to do with his life, he knew that he wanted theatre to be a part of it. When Ray graduated from high school, he began his college career and got his bachelor’s degree in Theatre.
After he graduated, Ray decided that the Navy was the best option for a career. He served over 12 years in the Navy and when he was discharged, he knew what his calling was. Ray said the Navy taught him many things, but the most important thing was that he liked to teach. After the Navy, he finished his master’s and a doctorate in English. Ray says to his students that when he is reading Shakespeare, he is transported to another world that he finds fascinating and filled with magic. After obtaining his D.A., Ray found himself in Tifton teaching at ABAC. He then was asked to take over the Baldwin Players, the theatrical group ABAC hosts. While he was excited about the opportunity, he also knew that it was going to be a challenge. Before Ray took over, the plays were being held in a classroom in Conger with no sets, no lights and hardly any room for people to watch the performance. Today, the Baldwin Players perform all of their plays at Howard Auditorium and tend to attract about 200 people for their three-day runs.
Ray has a schedule that he keeps to for picking his plays. Every fall semester, he picks a comedy for students to perform and every spring, he switches from a musical to a drama. Oct. 10 – 12, Ray and his cast performed “Boeing, Boeing.” The play was about a man who had three fiancés, and they were all flight attendants. Of course, nothing goes as planned for him and they all eventually realize what is happening.
When asked about Ray’s directing style, his cast members said, “He can be harsh but only because he means well and wants us to do the best that we can.” Dr. Ray admits that at times he can seem very intense, but he knows that the people that he cast for his roles can handle it, so he pushes them to the limits on acting for the audience.
He is drawn to live theatre, he said, because he never quite knows what is going to happen. When the curtain goes up, no one knows if a cue will be missed or if people will laugh at the right moments. The theatre has always been Ray’s passion and he said that he doesn’t think that will ever change. Ray also manages the Tift Theatre that ABAC has recently been placed in charge of. He is working on the Haunted Theatre that the Tift holds every year and he is already planning the musical for the Baldwin Players to perform in the spring.
Auditions for the plays are always announced on posters in the halls of Conger and Ray said that he wished more people would try out. Dr. Ray has many hopes for the theatre program and said that with the new Fine Arts building, he thinks some of those dreams will become a reality.