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Ray Pritchard on the set of Avenue Q

Instructor promotes theatre arts on campus and in the community

In third grade Ray Pritchard discovered his passion for theatre while directing his class’s production of “Rumpelstiltskin”.

“Theatre has been something I’ve loved my entire life. From directing that first play I realized it was a way to explore who I am not — and allowed me the experience of being in other people’s shoes,” said Pritchard, now in his 8th year of teaching at Yakima Valley College.

Pritchard focused his undergraduate studies at the  Washington State University and graduate studies at the University of Idaho in fine arts and theatre arts. After earning his degrees, he headed east and worked as the director of university theatre at the University of Wisconsin’s Manitowoc Campus.

Wanting to return to Washington, Pritchard joined YVC’s drama faculty in 2016. He teaches a variety of courses including intro to theatre, theatre history, playwriting, introduction to humanities and theatre production. He also is the college’s technical director — creating all the sets needed to stage YVC’s productions — as well as directing and co-directing the productions themselves.

YVC's production of Putnam County Spelling Bee
Ray Pritchard (left) performs during YVC's production of Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Another aspect of theatre that has always resonated with Pritchard is its ability to connect people.

“I’ve made so many friends throughout the course of my career. Most casts end up feeling like family by the end. It’s been a wonderful feeling for me and something I love to share with others,” he continued.

In addition to teaching part-time for YVC, Pritchard also teaches full-time at La Salle High School including courses in drama, choir, video production, speech and debate and a freshman prep course, which helps students transition to high school. He also produces two theatre productions a year and directs two concerts.

While juggling so many classes and activities isn’t easy, it’s a labor of love for Pritchard.

“It is my passion. Yes, I might utterly exhausted somedays but I get to do what I love so I feel lucky.”

This love led him to become active in community theatre as well — serving in various roles for the Warehouse Theatre Company for the past six years.

“I went up and watched a production, thought it was fantastic, and decided to audition for an upcoming role. Then the next thing I knew I was acting for them, directing for them and then on their board.”

“Theatre has been something I’ve loved my entire life. From directing that first play I realized it was a way to explore who I am not — and allowed me the experience of being in other people’s shoes.” — Ray Pritchard

He currently serves as president of the board of directors and helps decide which shows are selected for the stage.  He also recently directed their fall production of “Fools,” which was on-stage September 8-30.

“That’s one of the things I love about the Warehouse Theatre Company,” says Pritchard. “Every time there is a need for support, someone steps up to help. It just shows that community theater is really a community!”

Through all of these efforts, Pritchard hopes he can help share stories. He’s heard it mentioned many times that Yakima is a large city, but with a small-town mindset. He wants to  help shift that mindset by sharing these stories on stage  to open theatregoers’  minds to what lies outside of the Yakima Valley.

At YVC, he is excited to help grow the educational program and get more students involved in the performing arts.

“One of the great things about YVC’s program is our students have the opportunity to work alongside community members and professionals. Since COVID our numbers and offerings have been lower, and my goal is to get more students involved and be able to offer our full range of courses again.”

One way Pritchard hopes to get students involved is by offering edgier plays and the chance to play characters that most students don’t have the opportunity to at the middle and high school level. Some recent examples include the fall production of “Avenue Q” and earlier productions of “The Laramie Project” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Interested in learning more about YVC’s theatre arts programs? Contact Pritchard by email or at 509.834.4554.

Further Reading

Avenue Q takes stage this fall

The Yakima Valley College Drama Department’s fall production of the Tony Award-winning musical comedy “Avenue Q,” opened November 9 with upcoming performances November 16 – 18 at 7:30 p.m. Ray Pritchard, drama instructor, directs the production with musical direction by Steven Slusher, director of choral music.

Part flesh, part felt and packed with heart, “Avenue Q” is a laugh-out-loud musical that tells the timeless story of a bright-eyed college grad named Princeton, who arrives in the city with big dreams and a tiny bank account. Forced to move into a shabby apartment all the way out on Avenue Q, he meets new friends, and together, they struggle to find jobs, dates and their ever-elusive purpose in life. Read more about the fall production