CSU’s first female theatre professor, Laura Jones, to retire, leave behind award-winning legacy

Maddie Wright

Laura Jones sits in the chairs at the UCA.
Colorado State University professor Laura Jones poses for a portrait on in the theater seating at the University Center for the Arts. Jones has been a professor at CSU for 24 years and has directed numerous plays, taught acting, directing and theater history. Jones will be retiring at the end of the spring semester. (Forrest Czarnecki | The Collegian)

Colorado State University’s first female theater professor will retire at the end of the semester, but her influence will not be forgotten. 

Dr. Laura Jones started her job at CSU 24 years ago, and her hard work and love for theater have defined her time at the University. 

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“I was the first woman on tenure track in theater,” Jones said. “I mean, it was the first time they had a woman theater professor. Isn’t that amazing? I mean it’s ridiculous. I’m not really proud of it, but OK. And you know when I came, it was like ‘well she’ll do the women’s plays, and she’ll do the children’s theater. I was just like, ‘no no no no no, excuse me?'” 

Jones has exceeded the expectations people set out for her when she originally came the CSU. Most recently, she won a gold medallion from The Kennedy Center during the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival in February. 

“It is the most prestigious regional award given by KCACTF and is considered one of the great honors in theatre education,” said J. Nick Taylor, director at the Community of College of Denver, during his speech introducing the award at the festival.

Laura Jones looks down on the stage of the UCA from the catwalk.
Colorado State University professor Laura Jones looks down on the theatre stage from the catwalk at the University Center for the Arts. “This was one of my favorite places to come watch plays from,” Jones said. Jones has been a professor at CSU for 24 years, and will be retiring at the end of the spring semester. (Forrest Czarnecki | The Collegian)

During the festival, the last production directed by Jones at CSU, Love and Information,” was invited to compete. 

“Our production didn’t have to win; it had already won.” Jones said. “I mean they invite three from the entire region. It was an honor just to be invited.”

Jones jokes that the gold medallion was her “gold medal for endurance.”

“(She) mastered jumping through any of the hoops that our administration provides and came out on top every time, and with her, CSU Theatre,” said CSU theater professor Walt Jones. 

In her nomination for Laura Jones’ gold medallion, Assistant Professor of Set Design, Roger Hanna, said Jones has worked on countless productions at CSU. 

“Laura has directed perhaps 100 musicals, comedies, tragedies and devised works, but takes a humble, collaborative approach to each new project,” Hanna said. “I would be surprised if in the history of the world, any one faculty has ever volunteered to teach more independent projects or advise more student clubs…when she announced her retirement, we asked that she be replaced by two new faculty members just to keep up with everything we count on Laura to do every semester.”

Among the many characteristics her colleagues describe Jones as having, tenacity stands out. During the flood of 1997, much of the Theater Department was damaged or destroyed, including the costume shop and storage area. Ann Gill, Dean of Liberal Arts, said Jones was determined to overcome this. 

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“Thanks to her and that determined and infectious attitude, theatre at Colorado State not only recovered, it flourished,”Ann Gill, Dean of Liberal Arts 

“When I mentioned I had spoken with a faculty member who was convinced the theatre program would not be able to recover, Professor Jones squared her shoulders, got a determined look in her eye, kicked her right leg high over her head and announced, ‘The show must go on,'” Gill said. “Thanks to her and that determined and infectious attitude, theatre at Colorado State not only recovered, it flourished.”

As the first female theatre professor at CSU, Jones made it her mission to give other women voices a platform in the department. 

For example, this semester she is teaching a feminist theater class for the first time; there are 10 students in the class. Five are men and 5 are women.

“It’s been really exciting,” Jones said. “It was decided a year ago. Who knew about #metoo? Who knew that this would indeed be so relevant and so topical?” 

“Love and Information” was written by a woman, and that is no accident, Jones said. 

Laura Jones looks through old costumes at the UCA.
Colorado State University professor Laura Jones looks over old costumes from theater productions she directed while teaching theater at CSU. Jones has been a professor at CSU for 24 years, and will be retiring at the end of the spring semester. (Forrest Czarnecki | The Collegian)

“I’ve tried to make sure that women’s voices were heard, and that we occasionally, although rarely, had done a work by a woman playwright.” Jones said.

Jones said she has experienced sexism, although not blatantly, in her career. 

“I’m not saying I feel as if people have been biased against me or biased against whatever,” Jones said. “I’m just saying it’s the way of the world, you know, I feel like I’ve had to carry that banner.”

But before anything else, Jones is a teacher. 

“In her lectures, her passion for the subject is clear,” said Jones’ former student Austin R. D. Burns. “She gets excited about her topics and it makes you excited as well…She has always believed in me.”

Jones influence at CSU extends past her students. 

“Over the years, Professor Jones has refused to let theatre be ignored, overlooked, overshadowed, or flooded out of existence,” Gill said.

Collegian reporter Maddie Wright can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @maddierwright.