Alonzo Lee Moore is a principal dancer with Dancing People Company and an actor and choreographer with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. You can see him this week and next as Gus, the coat-checker-wannabe-actor in “It’s Only a Play,” a Terrence McNally piece I directed for the Ashland Contemporary Theatre.
Next season, Moore will be dividing his time between Ashland and his hometown in Texas, where he plans to build a community art center. We chatted over Sunday brunch at Larks Home Kitchen Cuisine in downtown Ashland.
AM: I live in a very rich area in Texas, where the culture and the heritage runs deep. The families have been there together since the 1840s. It used to be cornfields, open land and cattle. Now it’s all subdivisions and strip malls. The economy is booming down there. It’s all urban.
Within our community and within our society we’ve advanced as a people. We’ve had the civil rights movement and we’ve had all of these amazing opportunities to grow, succeed and achieve equal rights; but in doing so, I feel that we’ve lost what was driving us to strive for those things.
What’s being lost is all of the values that we grew up with, all the songs, the holidays, and the stories that we used to know. I feel that I need to go back home and preserve some of that. How else would I preserve it? I sing; I’m a dancer and an actor. Why don’t I go back and use the crafts that I have learned and enrich the youth in my community and weave the fabric back again?
EH: What causes communities to create theater?
AM: I think that theater is such an old tradition, that comes from such a primal place, of people needing to witness and experience story in a dynamic way. And it’s so old that we’re innately called to experience it. There are people who are called to witness it. There are people who support theater; they devote time to making sure that it happens. Then there are the doers, who are the performers, the actors and the dancers; their role is to embody story.
Our job as performers is to hold up a mirror. In the mirror you see a highly dramatized version of the truth. You are asked to question reality in a way that you wouldn’t question it in any other way. You see a piece of theater, and you’re moved by it. You see a show, and you evaluate your relationships. You see a piece of theater and it lifts you up from being sad or it makes you sad. It makes you dive into those emotions.
Theater is like magic. The stage is magic. You know they say that the rainbow goes into a pot of gold? The rainbow flows into a theater house. Our emotions are like a rainbow. We experience a spectrum. And when you go to the theater, you watch that man or that woman step on stage and embody that scope. And they move through it with ease.
That line in “It’s Only a Play,” “We are acrobats of the gods, working without a net.” How beautifully put! We have no safety net. Our career is in our body, which is aging and will end some day. And then that craft is over. We create impermanent beauty that exists only in a moment and will never be the same ever again.