If you’ve seen a theater production in the valley this past year, odds are Brad Moore had a hand in bringing it to life.
The jack-of-all-trades has permanent gigs with The Sopris Theatre Company at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus and Thunder River Theatre Company, but he’s also called upon by countless other companies from Aspen on down. And when he’s called, he rarely says no.
Moore shared with the Post Independent how he got his start in theater, why he keeps coming back to the valley and how such small communities are able to support so much theater.
Post Independent: What’s your earliest memory of theater?
Brad Moore: My earliest memory was in Evergreen. I was 9 or 10, and along with some neighborhood friends and my Mom, we started the Stewart Inn Puppets. Mom and I spent the week making puppets out of felt. On Friday night we would pop popcorn and make Kool-Aid. Then on Saturday mornings we would perform stories with the puppets in a large room we rented in an old stagecoach stop.
My first real theater experience came at the age of 13. My mother was a graphic artist and had designed the brochure for a group called the Aspen Theatre Institute. Part of her fee was given in scholarships for my sister and me. She came home so excited to tell us. I was furious. I firmly announced there was no way I’d do anything like that. By the end of the first day, I was hooked. I played the Tinman in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ We performed in the basement of the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen (it was the youth center then). We also performed at the Good Shepard Lutheran Church in Glenwood Springs. I had a real tin suit under which I had layers of sweat-suits and padding so the tin wouldn’t cut me. We did a parade down Grand Avenue to promote the show. The temperature was in the high 90s that day. I didn’t think I’d live. What we do for our art.
PI: Tell me about some of the training you’ve had in theater.
BM: I continued with the Aspen Theatre Institute every summer. The founders and most of the instructors were from Northwestern University and Chicago. ATI also gave us the opportunity to study with Dorothy Heathcote, a true child drama great from the U.K. Between my junior and senior years of high school, I studied theater at Northwestern University through the National High School Institute of Speech. I received my bachelor’s degree in theatre arts from the University of Northern Colorado.
PI: Tell me about your relationship with the valley.
BM: I first landed in the valley with my mom and sister in 1970. I was 12. I am an Aspen High School graduate. Directly out of college I was hired as the director of the Children’s Theatre School of Madison and the Wisconsin Youth Theatre. I then returned to the valley as the operations manager of the Columbine Dinner Playhouse in Aspen. During that time in the valley, Al Lyons and I started Aspen Stage, which is the company that took Kristin Carlson’s ‘Unmarried In America’ to the American Association of Community Theatre’s national festival in 2013, winning four awards including Best Ensemble. I joined the board of the Aspen Community Theatre, I was the theatre conference director for the APT Foundation (offering courses for college students taking ‘J-term’ classes). I worked with the Aspen Playwright’s Conference. I started directing and acting with CMC Theatre in 1986. I was one of the original company members of the Snowmass Repertory Theatre. Also, in 1986 I took a job in Long Beach (director of education and outreach for the Long Beach Civic Light Opera). I started by spending half the year in California and half the year in the valley. In mid-1988, I moved to California full-time. I most recently returned to the valley in 1994. I loved my job in California, but one night I was in a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant with my son. He wasn’t quite 3. As I watched him play, I thought, ‘He needs to grow up in the mountains.’ I went home and said, ‘What do you think about moving to Colorado?’ I came home, found a job and, well … now my son is an Aspen High School graduate, too.
PI: Walk me through all the theater companies in the valley you’ve been involved with.
BM: I’m not sure there is a company I haven’t at least assisted on some level. Theatre Aspen, Aspen Stage, ACT, Snowmass Repertory Theatre, CMC Theatre, Aspen Fringe, Aspen Playwrights’ Conference, Hudson Reed Ensemble, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. My two regular gigs right now are as the theatre operations manager for The Sopris Theatre at Colorado Mountain College where I am also an adjunct faculty member, and I’m a member of the Thunder River Theatre Company and am the resident lighting and sound designer.
PI: What are all the roles you play in theater production, and which is your favorite?
BM: Someone once called me a renaissance man in the theater. I don’t know if that’s really true. I love it all. I never set out to design, but I have always been curious about all aspects of the theater. I think any true actor or director should truly understand everything it takes to create theater. Directing is probably my first love. It is so exciting to find those very special moments within the process. That moment when creative minds go on a journey together. Theater is a collaborative art. I love the family of the theater, the problem solving and the joy of creating art together.
PI: What are some of the local shows you’ve been involved with recently? Which has been your favorite?
BM: In the past 12 months or so, I played Pseudolus in ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ at The Sopris Theatre Company at CMC. I also designed the set for that show. I directed and designed a new one-woman piece called ‘For Tomorrow We May Die’ about the Ludlow Massacre in Southern Colorado 100 years ago. That’s been a particularly special project because it was written by Barbara (McDermott) Yule who started the Aspen Theatre Institute and gave me my first real love of the theater. I directed and designed lights and sound for ‘The Gin Game’ at Thunder River Theatre Company. I directed and designed the sets and lights for ‘The Glorious Ones for CMC.’ We took that production to the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, too. I acted in ‘Laodamiad’ for Theatre Masters’ Take Ten. I designed sets, lights and sound for ‘The Rimers of Eldritch.’ That was for CMC, where I also designed lights and sound for ‘The Women of Lockerbie,’ as well as directing and designing ‘A Flea in Her Ear.’ For Thunder River Theatre Company, I designed lights and sound for ‘The Lion In Winter,’ ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Red Herring.’ I designed lights for the Hudson Reed Ensemble’s ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,’ for ‘Bugsy Malone, Jr.’ with Jennetta Howell Theatricals, and I just designed the lighting for ‘The Other Place’ at the Aspen Fringe.
Probably a favorite this past year was directing ‘Make Sure It’s Me’ for Huts for Vets. It was staged as a reading by actual veterans and wives of veterans. We brought in one actress to play the doctor. None of the vets had ever been on stage before. It was a life-changing experience for me. Trying to have these performers, many of whom actually had traumatic brain injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and who had spent so much time stuffing the memories and experiences, allowing me to help to bring those moments to life. What an amazing group of people.
PI: Why do you think theater is able to thrive here despite such a relatively small population?
BM: I really think the theater thrives here because there are so many talented and truly passionate people living here. They want to ply their trade in paradise. I’m guilty of the same thing. While I was working in Southern California, the talent pool was vast. I got to work with some truly amazing people, the very top of the business, but I also got many of those great opportunities in this valley. My job in California came from connections made here. There is a theatrical community within the valley. I have always pushed to have everyone work together and support each other. I believe that theater begets theater. Building an audience by one theater will help all the theaters thrive.
PI: In a nutshell, what do you love about theater?
BM: Theater combines so many areas of creative expression. Theater has the ability to really encapsulate humanity. Because of its collaborative nature, the bonding and the trust we develop for each other, we become a family in its truest sense.
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