Voices From Heart of the Woods
Play evenhandedly portrays 'jobs vs. environment' conflict in the Northwest
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As Moore explains, for a logger to go back to school and learn a new trade is no small feat, especially if he or she has only a third-grade level of education. Much of the show's material comes from the timber-dependent Grays Harbor Count in Washington, where an estimated 33 percent of the work force is unemployed.Skip to next paragraph
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Moore achieves an overall balance with half of his characters planted firmly in the environmentalist camp and half in the logging camp. Since he began his research, Moore says the environmental pendulum has shifted. In 1993, many of the activists he talked to felt secure in their efforts to stop timber sales and pass environmental laws. Yet in today's political climate of salvage logging, the environmentalists are struggling to hold their legal ground.
In researching timber issues, Moore talked to just about everyone except corporate executives. "If there is one, the message is the plight of the little guy," Moore says. The play showcases everyday people - people with regional dialects, idiosyncrasies, bad tempers.
"In the Heart of the Wood" has traveled to a number of small towns in the Northwest in its first two years of touring. It began in a refurbished mortuary in Seattle, enjoyed a three-week run at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, and continues to travel, by request, to various Northwest logging communities. Moore notes that the rural audiences tend to appreciate different jokes from urban audiences.
After the show I saw in La Grande, a small town in eastern Oregon, a number of loggers befriended Moore and invited him to go elk-watching the next morning. Thanks to Moore's inviting approach to confrontational issues, his performance attracts both loggers and environmentalists.
Dissatisfied with the theater scene in Seattle, where he's lived for the past 20 years, Moore found his acting parts were occasionally well-paid but never fulfilling.
"This is the first thing I've ever done where people have wanted to see it," says Moore. His unusually humble approach to acting seems to aid him in the difficult task of becoming a human transparency, projecting the views of 19 different people. Whether he's reeling in anti-environmentalist rhetoric as Ron, the Wise Use lobbyist, or gently calling to the spotted owl as Christy, the zoologist, he's consistently impassioned.
Part of his inspiration for the show came from a college dream to move to a small town and start a community theater. Instead of the usual "Guys and Dolls" and "Oklahoma" offerings, "it would be a theater that would reflect its community," Moore explains.
It was not until he saw Anna Deavere Smith's one-woman show "Fires in the Mirror" that he had a vision for his own show. And it was not until he drove past a clear-cut on Interstate 5 that he arrived at his subject.
Moore's next one-man show will explore capital punishment. He's just begun interviewing death-row inmates in Walla Walla, Wash. Yet even as he researches his next show, he continues to tour "In the Heart of the Wood," in small Washington and Oregon towns. In the tradition of bringing political theater into the streets, Moore brings his unparalleled look at the timber crisis - into the woods.
*For information on performances, call (206) 760-1527.