This is the 104th story of Our Life Logs
I once read somewhere that, “Theatres are modern churches: huddled masses in the dark, looking up at those in the light, telling them what it is to be human.” That is what I want: to share experiences with people that leave them not only entertained but changed in some way for the good. The path that stretches before me absolutely thrills me to my core. This is my connection to my incredible community: creating events that are a gift for the present time only – that only exist while I am within those four walls with my fellow cast and my audience. I take a look around, and I am amazed at what an incredible place my life is in.
1 | In the Sun-Kissed Hills
A Southern California girl, born and bred, I grew up in the early 90s in a small town that was filled with orange groves and rolling hills. I spent my childhood on a small dirt road (now a five-lane freeway), listening to the quiet hum of life. For all the beauty I was surrounded by, I always felt a bit of disquiet in my heart.
By the time I reached high school in 2006, I realized that I lacked a defining “thing”–a grounding interest that would hone my skills and challenge me. I had friends that each had incredible passions, everything talent from hockey, to singing. Yet, there I was, in the middle of all this creative energy, and still without my own outlet.
Towards the middle of high school, I enrolled in a theatre class as an elective (as most of us tend to do). There was something so incredibly beautiful about telling a story and being in the room with people as they heard it (often for the first time) hearing the reactions, drinking in the energy. I began ravenously consuming all the theatre knowledge and experience I could get my hands on.
Where I grew up, anyone who was interested in performance enrolled in acting classes at CAT: a local children’s theatre. They did so no later than age 7. But I was in high school, and the anxiety of being “left in the dust” began to set in. I loved what I did, but I knew I was no prodigy, I understood that I had a lot of hard work to get to a place that I wanted to be.
As it turns out, being a late bloomer forced my mindset to be one of tenacious work and a thirst for learning from anyone and everyone I could. I feel that if I had taken acting classes at a young age, I perhaps would have become bored or complacent. In children’s theatres, everyone is handed a role, would that have stirred up the same fire in me?
Approaching my senior year of high school, I decided I wanted to make theatrical performance my focus in college. When I expressed this to my father, he said, “Yeah, of course. I think it’s great you’re going after this. Though, if you were a boy I would want you to major in something else, so you could provide for your family.”
Those words still ring in my ears and get my blood boiling. I knew perfectly well that a successful life can be built upon any passion, difficult as it may be, and that I could also be the main support for the family I went on to create. I knew before that moment I loved what I did, but after that it became a goal to do it as excellently as I possibly could. And so, I graduated from high school in 2010, and left my hometown to pursue the performing arts.
2 | Interior: Daytime. A Classroom.
A resume doesn’t always showcase what you are capable of. One day in auditioning class during my freshman year of college where I was organizing my feeble roles of “Ensemble,” or “Woman in the crowd” onto a mostly blank Word document. It was as if my resume documented my inexperience rather than my aspirations and dream roles. My heart sank into my stomach as my father’s words ran a lap through my mind.
Noticing my distress, my professor approached where I sat and simply said, “don’t worry so much, one day you’ll just stop and realize what an impressive, full resume you have. Just keep getting out there.” I think he was talking about more than just my feeble resume, I realized that I needed to shift the way I thought about success and the way I thought about my experiences. Since then, I have thrown myself into my work not only with theatre, but every aspect of my life that I want to see thrive, and I try looking at where I’ve made it to from time to time.
It’s incredible how fast seedlings grow when you just let them be for a little while.
3 | One Day, You’ll Just Stop and Realize…
Later in my time at college, I found a distaste growing in me. All the other performance majors talked shop about different strategies of scooping up roles and how to impress casting directors. There was something very “rat-race” about it, and I found myself drawn more and more towards the idea of being someone who helps in creating more opportunities for others rather than scraping for the few opportunities that appeared. As it turned out, my friend and a close professor shared with me a similar itch they were looking to scratch.
That professor structured his classes in a way that allowed for group discussion after each play that was read. So, one day during a discussion in the professor’s class, I mentioned my distaste for the unappealing scramble for the few acting opportunities. My professor shared how he had wanted to start up a theatre company for a few years and suggested that we meet during his open office hours to discuss what that might look like.
It was late in the summer of 2014, just two months away from graduating, and I sat in a coffee shop waiting to meet with my friend and professor. The anticipation was nerve racking. It is an interesting thing looking at an undertaking you know is monumental, that you have no experience in and quite honestly have no idea about how to accomplish it. But as my team showed up, we sat and sketched out a plan. We made a list of who we were interested in inviting onboard and collaborating with, what production we wanted to start with, and when to have our first official meeting. We knew we were hot on the heels of something big. We scribbled down our thoughts and got in touch with everyone in all of our social circles who we knew would hold a piece of our new company’s final picture. A baby company in every sense, and we loved it deeply from that first moment in the coffee shop. That day was the first of many in planning the groundwork for a theatre company we would eventually cofound: New Threads Theatre.
4 | Get Out There and Break a Leg
Along the following 4 years, there was definitely a learning curve. No single member had all the skills and knowledge necessary to keep us moving forward. Some members became upset when others would correct them or offer alternative ways to approach problems. Some of the biggest struggles came from the battle between the creative dreamers and the practical members who had the budgets at the forefront of their minds. We had to shift around which productions we had planned to accommodate these disputes, as well as simplifying some really incredible artistic ideas. It sounds simple enough, but when you have an image in your mind of how to create a truly dynamic, moving piece of theatre, to have it completely dashed is next to unbearable. On the flip side of the coin, to be up late at night trying to figure out ways to stretch the budget and keep the spark alive can be incredibly harrowing.
We sat for hours figuring out how to save shows that weren’t fully funded. A couple of times we even had to approach directors and tell them their productions would have to be postponed or cancelled completely because we didn’t have enough people on board to make the show a reality. I remember the Company Coordinator telling me that there was simply no way we could move forward with one of our slated staged readings. It was a new work, and I knew that the director and playwright were both incredibly eager to debut the piece. We were still a few months out from rehearsals beginning, but our Artistic Director had to break the bad news to both of them. It was absolutely crushing. They were understanding and very kind in how they reacted, but it is never an easy thing to have something so precious ripped from your hands.
But we persisted, we chose to bend instead of break, we talked it out and made the effort and had the tough talks. Some members chose to step away from the company, and some people excitedly joined over that time. Both are very brave choices, I think, and I admire these people so much for chasing after their dreams and aspirations. Ultimately, it has culminated into a wealth of learning that completely changes our outlook on life—for the better.
This became so much more than what my father had pointed out: it was no longer about my success, but about the success of our community as a whole. There was never a moment that I think any of us felt, “Whew! We’re safe, we know we’ve made it and have nothing to worry about anymore!” It has always and will always be a steady stream of work and planning and collaborating. But I will say that something slowly crept upon all of us the longer we continued with our work; we kept hearing the beautiful ways we were touching the lives of others, and from time to time we would ruminate together over the feeling we shared of knowing that we would always be chipping away at something together. Perhaps not under the name of “New Threads” but our goal was and continues to be completed: we are creating new opportunities. My goal is to weave together events that leave everyone talking and aid in bridging gaps; bringing even the unlikeliest combinations of people together and start inclusive conversations.
This is the story of Leah Moore
Leah is a graduate of California Baptist University’s Theatre Program, as well as a proud founding member of New Threads Theatre Company and has worked hard to gain the pride of her parents and the connection of her community through that company. She is working currently as the Company Training Program Director for New Threads, and a few her previous performance credits include: Helena in the Courtyard Shakespeare Festival’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jordan Baker in the Worldwide Theatrical’s The Great Gatsby, Meredith in New Threads Theatre’s Asleep in the Arms of God, and Elizabeth Proctor in New Threads Theatre’s The Crucible. She and her husband happily live with their dog, Mousse, and spring at every opportunity for an adventure. She feels confident in the fact that she is rediscovering what success means to her every day, and proud of the journey she is on.
If you would like more information about the New Threads Theatre Company, please visit: http://www.newthreadstheatre.org/
This story first touched our hearts on May 25, 2018.