Ruth spent a year at the University of Saskatchewan before moving to Toronto in 1974 to study acting at Ryerson University. Summers were spent in Saskatoon working as an actor for Twenty Fifth Street Theatre. Upon graduating from Ryerson in 1978, Ruth worked as an actor in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatoon.
In 1979, Ruth Smillie was cast as ten-year old Hilary in Hilary’s Birthday by Joe Weisenthal, a production of Green Thumb Theatre in Vancouver. This was a ground-breaking play for young audiences that Ruth performed for almost two years including at two month tour to England and Europe.
In 1981, Ruth was invited to start Persephone Youtheatre in Saskatoon. The theatre for young audience company produced two school tours each year for children throughout Saskatchewan. While working as the Artistic Director of Persephone Youtheatre, Ruth was asked to develop a theatre program for students at the Saskatoon Native Survival School in collaboration with Kelly Murphy and Maria Campbell. Ruth taught and directed the theatre program at the Saskatoon Native Survival School until 1985. Ruth Smillie and Kelly Murphy published a workbook, Story Circles which documents the methods used to create collective theatre with aboriginal teenagers.
Ruth Smillie moved to Edmonton in 1985 to work as Artistic Director of Catalyst Theatre. During her ten year tenure with Catalyst Theatre, the theatre was awarded numerous Sterling Awards (Edmonton’s annual professional theatre awards) and achieved national recognition for its development of new plays, outdoor spectacles and collaborations with international artists.
While in Edmonton, Ruth taught an acting course at the University of Alberta and served on the Touring Advisory for the Canada Council for the Arts for three years. In 1993, Ruth was the Visiting Fellow at King Alfred’s College in Winchester. In 1994, Ruth was the Canadian Tutor Delegate for an international festival of young playwrights in Townsville, Australia. That same year, she was one of 10 Canadian artists invited to participate in the Free Ideas Zone in San Francisco.
Ruth Smillie’s plays for young audiences have been produced by theatres across Canada. Zeke and the Indoor Plants was published in Canadian Theatre Review 60 in 1989; Teenage Moms was published by Ginn Canada in Cues and Entrances, 2nd Edition, 1994.
In 1998, Ruth Smillie was appointed Artistic Director and CEO of Globe Theatre. During her time at the Globe, Ruth has overseen two major renovations and an expansion of Globe Theatre's facilities in the historic Prince Edward Building. She conceived and produced Lanterns on the Lake, an annual outdoor celebration of art and community that was a signature event for the City of Regina for a number of years. Ruth also initiated the Shumiatcher Sandbox Series which develops and presents new work and experimental theatre created by Saskatchewan artists. Two productions developed as part of the Shumiatcher Sandbox Series, Governor of the Dew by Floyd Favel and The Velvet Devil by Andrea Menard, were showcased at the National Arts Centre in the fall of 2002. Her directing work at Globe Theatre includes: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Sexy Laundry, A Christmas Carol, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, Just So, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Old Wicked Songs, Wit, Twelfth Night, The Secret Garden, The Velvet Devil, A Man for All Seasons, Amadeus, Elizabeth Rex, Honk! and The Wizard of Oz (with Michael Kennard).
Ruth Smillie was presented with the University of Saskatchewan Alumni Award in 2000, the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, the YWCA Women of Distinction Arts Award in 2004, and the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal. In 2008, Ruth was named as one of ten Women of Influence by SaskBusiness Magazine. Ruth is the mother of three grown children: Emmaline, Thomas and Lucy.