Every production has vital roles that bring the performance together. The same can be said about a school, and Dr. Charlene Monk has done much to fill her role at PCC. From teaching a plethora of undergrad and grad speech classes to directing over 45 Fine Arts productions, Dr. Monk has encouraged many to use their talents for the Lord.
College provided transition between the acts of Dr. Monk’s life—between what she had a burden for and what God was calling her to. Because she felt that the Lord wanted her in the classroom, Dr. Monk studied education in South Carolina. After taking the freshman speech course, she became interested in it and changed her major to speech education. Immediately following her undergraduate degree, she earned a master’s degree in dramatic production in 1975 and eventually earned a Ph.D. in theatre from Louisiana State University in 1998.
After teaching speech at the college level in Wisconsin for two years, Dr. Monk and another instructor were invited to PCC to interview for faculty positions. The growing college had been around for only four years at the time and was in need of speech faculty. “When I graduated from college, I asked the Lord to place me in a position where I could use the areas of dramatics and speech in ministry for Him,” she said. “I can definitely say the Lord has given me the desires of my heart. I love working with a stage production, to see a student come in—start from the black and white script and see that script come to life on stage.”
As she began teaching speech classes at PCC in 1979, she observed one characteristic that often appeared in her classrooms—nervousness. “When you’re teaching a course that a lot of people have to take, you have some people [who] love that course coming in—but others come into the course saying, ‘I wish I didn’t have to take this class,’” she explained. “Some people just don’t want to stand up and give a speech. You have to convince them that this is going to help them in the future, to see the value of what they’re learning now. They may not think they’re going to, but they are often surprised five, ten years down the road.”
Currently, Dr. Monk teaches graduate dramatics classes and private lessons as well as the undergraduate class Dramatic Literature in Performance. A newer class offered every other semester, Dramatic Literature has been a joy for her to teach because of its stark contrast to other speech classes. “It is very much a textbook-oriented course. There’s no performance per se in it. You’re looking, you’re analyzing, you’re studying different styles in the historical process of presenting drama on stage and the evolution of dramatic practices that we use today,” she explained. “I’m seeing them make connections, and it’s fun.”
Although she has both acted and directed in productions such as Girls in 509 and The Importance of Being Earnest, Dr. Monk prefers to be in the director’s chair rather than in the spotlight. Dr. Monk has directed plays and musicals such as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, A Christmas Carol, The Diary of Anne Frank, Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado.
For her 40 years of dedicated service at PCC, Dr. Monk was honored with the dedication of the 2018–2019 Summit yearbook. “When I came here forty years ago, there was only one building on this campus—Ballard—and a record enrollment of 600 students. I never would have dreamed that forty years later, I would be standing here,” she said. “What’s molded me is just taking every step, step-by-step, in faith. And if an opportunity comes up, take it, unless the Lord shuts the door. You build on those opportunities He gives you, and you have no idea where it’s going to lead. You don’t realize it until you look back and see how every opportunity gave the foundation for another opportunity.”
With future Fine Arts productions in the works, Dr. Monk will reprise her roles at PCC, working closely with teachers and students, cast members and staff members, as a teacher and director. “The family of PCC has become literally my family. It’s a wonderful environment,” Dr. Monk said. “The applause ends—quickly. But when you’ve done it for the Lord, and you know you’ve done your best, you still have this great satisfaction of honoring the Lord through your talent. That’s certainly a reward right there.”