Voices From Heart of the Woods
Play evenhandedly portrays 'jobs vs. environment' conflict in the Northwest
LA GRANDE, ORE.
He's an unemployed logger, a priest visiting an old-growth clear-cut, a professor theorizing about land use, an environmental lobbyist, and a saw shop owner, just to name a few of his characters. In his one-man show "In the Heart of the Wood," Todd Jefferson Moore explores diverse viewpoints on logging in the Northwest, weaving together the voices of 19 real people from Washington and British Columbia.Skip to next paragraph
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A powerful performer without pretense, he rapidly switches from one character to the next with minimal reliance on props. Moore - who has acted at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, Portland Repertory Theatre, and the Seattle Children's Theater - brings a wealth of accumulated perspective to the "jobs versus environment" conflict.
"Some of the greatest storytellers I've ever met have been loggers," explains Moore, noting that they never tend to exaggerate. "That's the problem," he laughs, as he recounts a story about a man getting crushed by a tree, then accidentally dumped out of a stretcher by his fellow loggers. Moore incorporates the dark humor of these stories into the show.
As a playwright, Moore has a talent for finding humor in adversity and quickly getting to the core of his characters. He conducted more than 40 interviews in politically charged areas like Forks County, Wash., and Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia.
Then he spent two months just narrowing down his material, often distilling three hours of a taped interview into a five-minute monologue.
In one of his more serious pieces, an Anglican priest, Father Graeme, recounts the visceral reaction he had to the logging of old-growth trees on Vancouver Island. The awe-inspiring size of the trees, the plants, and even the eight-inch slugs propel him to protest, leading to his eventual arrest.
As a pair of twenty-something protesters, Moore breaks into naive "peace and love" lingo yet also manages an eloquent defense of trees. In a delightful mockery of academia, he plays a sociology professor whose lofty monologue on private versus public land seems to float in theoretical space. Perhaps the most gripping of his characterizations are the loggers who are suddenly unemployed.
Director John Kazanjian keeps "In the Heart of the Wood" moving at a fast clip, sometimes with Moore enacting lively duets between two characters. The sharp, cinematic segues from character to character are sometimes startling, always powerful.
Another asset to the show is Moore's attention to details - like slugs and grapes - that add rich texture to everything he says.
As Mike, an ex-logger, he holds up a grape and discusses the difficulties of his job-training program. One notorious assignment is to go to a market, purchase a single grape, and have it weighed. The point is to challenge ex-loggers with a socially embarrassing situation, part of an aggressive program to overcome social and academic fears. Consequently, only a brave few of the retrainees succeed. Many ex-loggers see the familiar grape exercise as a glaring symbol of the nation's inadequate efforts to provide for them.