Brad Moore relishes his many theatrical roles
On a recent day, Brad Moore, wearing his hat as director of the Aspen School District’s performing arts facilities, had to oversee operations at the school district’s two theaters. In the Aspen District Theatre, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet was starting to adjust the lights and sets for its 10th anniversary gala celebration performances. Meanwhile, at Aspen High School’s Black Box Theatre, it was closing night of Theater Master’s presentation of the one-person play, “Shylock.”Occupying space in the more creative corners of Moore’s brain were the pair of productions, both in rehearsals, that he was directing: the sketch comedy “Parallel Lives,” which opens in a return engagement at the Black Box Theatre Friday, Feb. 3, and Aspen High’s version of “Beauty and the Beast,” to be presented in March. Buried somewhere further back is the student production of “I Hate Hamlet,” which has been pushed to an undetermined date this spring.As regards the students, Moore was thinking not only in terms of directing, but also of pedagogy. For 17 years, broken up into two stretches, Moore has been teaching theater at the local schools. In the latest stint, since his return from California in 1994, he has chaired the one-member theater department that covers both the Aspen Middle and High schools, a position that requires teaching and directing the students.And somewhere back in his mind, Moore likely had stray thoughts about his other theater connections. Moore is a co-founder and current president of Aspen Stage, a blanket organization that presents a variety of local productions – including the upcoming “Parallel Lives” – under its auspices. He is on the boards of both Aspen Community Theatre and the Colorado Community Theatre Coalition.
Good thing, then, that Moore finds something to enjoy in all his roles. And odd that he almost ran in fright from his first formal introduction to theater.Moore’s late mother, Beverly, probably thought she was doing good by her children when she sent 13-year-old Brad and his sister to the Aspen Theatre Institute’s children’s camp in the early ’70s. Beverly, reflecting back to the puppet shows she and her kids put on years earlier in Evergreen, had made a trade with the Theatre Institute: Beverly’s design firm Get Graphic! would produce the brochure and logo for the theater group in exchange for a summer activity for her two kids. The prospect horrified her son.”She came home and announced that me and my sister were taking theater classes for the summer,” said Moore, who grew up in a West End Victorian. “I was furious: ‘I’m going to go act in front of people?'” To his mind, the puppet shows – staged in an old stagecoach stop, and for which the neighborhood kids were charged three cents for admission – had a significant difference. “That was OK, because I was hiding behind something.”It took all of one day of theater camp for Moore to stop needing to hide from the stage. He was cast as the Tin Man in a version of “The Wizard of Oz” and was hooked. “I’ve been involved ever since,” said Moore, who went on to study theater at the University of Northern Colorado.
What Moore has found so satisfying in all aspects of theater is the collaborative element. With his fingers in so many pies, there are opportunities for all kinds of collaborative efforts.As a teacher and director of student plays, Moore thrills at seeing students make artistic breakthroughs. Beyond that, he enjoys witnessing the sense of community that can get built around the theater.”I love seeing my older students taking care of the younger students, being part of their productions,” said Moore, the father to a 15-year-old son, Christian, whose expertise is in computers – but who will also be handling the lighting for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet this weekend. “The older students run lights for the third- and fourth-grade productions, and that gives the younger students the idea that they get support from the high school.”Moore sees Aspen High’s theater department as a place where a lot of students find a sense of community. “For a lot of kids, the theater gives them a place where they can belong,” he said. “Some kids have athletics, and some have academic achievement. But for other kids, they need a place to feel like they belong, and the theater is like a home to them.” If it actually was a home, Moore might have to be thinking about sending a few kids out of the house about now. For “Beauty and the Beast,” a record 67 kids auditioned for parts.Moore also sees opportunities for collaboration between the local theater organizations. Which shouldn’t surprise; Moore has been involved with virtually every local stage group there is. He played the villain in “Taggert Hut,” the very first production staged by Theatre Under the Jerome (which became Aspen Theatre in the Park, and now Theatre Aspen), and also directed kids programs for the organization. His most recent appearance with Aspen Community Theatre was playing Doolittle in 2002’s “My Fair Lady.” A few years ago, he played a student resource officer in “With Their Eyes,” an Aspen Stage production about kids’ reactions to the 9/11 attacks that played at the Colorado Community Theatre Coalition Festival. Moore is pleased to see such additions as Theater Masters, and the expansion of Theatre Aspen to year-round programming.”We all work together and that’s the way it ought to be,” he said. “Theater begets theater. You see one good performance and you want to see more.”
With the two-person show “Parallel Lives,” Moore gets a chance to help put on good theater. The show, written by Mo Gaffney and Kathy Najimy, was an Off-Broadway smash in the ’80s. After local actor Peggy Mundinger saw the play, with its 27 offbeat characters pondering religion, sex, relationships and ethnicity, she approached Moore about the possibility of staging a local production.Moore was in his element. First, he suggested that Aspen Stage become involved as the presenter. Then he went to work assembling a team, starting with Wendy Perkins who, like co-star Mundinger, had a list of local credits that included the Crystal Palace and Aspen Community Theatre.”We looked around for the right people to bring in, and they were all right there and said yes,” said Moore, who brought in local veterans (set designer Tom Ward, the sound-and-lighting team of Gordon and Loren Wilder), as well as former and current students of his (stage manager Tyler Baker, stagehands Sarah and Grace Schultz).”The joy of this production is that it’s really a collaboration. Everyone involved brings new things to the table. The best of the best are sitting around a room with a common goal.”As the director, Moore gets to guide all those pieces. “In my eyes, the director’s job is to be the artistic viewpoint,” he said. “I’m the guardian of that artistic vision. My participation is to take a collaborative art and give it a unifying thread.”
Moore has had his time in a bigger pond than Aspen. In 1986, he began an association with the Civic Lights Opera, the biggest musical theater company in the Los Angeles basin. A few years later, he moved to southern California and implemented a variety of programs, including a musical theater school for kids, a performing-arts school for adults, and an in-school program that brought inner-city kids to listen to and see actors. Moore got to work with Carol Burnett and Bebe Neuwirth, got to tour as musical director of the International Children’s Choir. But one day, he watched his toddler son playing on a mechanical ride at a Chucky Cheese’s and thought he’d better get out of L.A.”I said, ‘He needs to ride a real motorcycle or a real horse,'” said Moore. “We’ve got to get back to the mountains.”Entrenched in Aspen the last decade, Moore doesn’t miss the bigger stage. “It’s more about what I’m doing than where I’m doing it,” he said.Moore added that Aspen affords plenty of theater opportunities. And he has come to relish the variety of characters he gets to play. “Just at the point when I get frustrated with kids or amateurs and ask what am I doing here, I get to do a professional job,” he said. “And then when I get annoyed with the egos and the lack of growth of the professionals, I get the kids and the innocence. You see these moments of clicking, of just getting it.” Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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