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‘A Funny Thing …’

Brookings’ own community theater legend Mike Moran has been acting, singing, directing and handling theater “tech” for more than 50-years. 

This month, he celebrates his 61st birthday and the upcoming comedy musical “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum,” is the 40th theater play he has directed.

The actual number of plays he has been involved with as an actor, a director and a technician for more than five decades is beyond count. His count, that is. 

“I don’t even know how many it has been,” says the man known to Brookings’ Chetco Pelican Players as The Phantom Of The Playhouse. “I always wanted to be an actor and I started with roles in church productions when I was around 10 years old. I just kept on going. 

“So many college shows, university shows, civic auditorium shows, so many community theater shows — I’ve done hundreds of plays and many of them multiple times, because I just love theater.

Moran remembers when he was 13 he did two professional theater productions. 

He played the lead role in “Pinocchio.”

“They gave me a big nose,” Moran said. “I liked that.”

The other one was “Sweet Bird Of Youth,” which starred Shelley Winters, a famous actress who had won an Academy Award in the movies. 

“I’ll never forget that show, because she played the lead role of an aging actress who wins an Oscar and she used her own actual gold statuette in the play,” Moran said. “She carried it around throughout the production. It was very heavy and I think it got pretty beaten-up.”

Moran was born in Corcoran, Calif. His family soon moved into the Bay Area cities of San Carlos and then Redwood City. He graduated from high school in 1970, already having a great number of productions to his credit. 

“In college, I majored in acting, stagecraft and music,” he recalls, At the start of his freshman year, he was in a play called “Boy Meets Girl.” He ended his senior year in 1974 as Teddy in “Arsenic And Old Lace.” 

“After college, I became a founding member of The Redwood City Community Theater and The Redwood City Civic Light Opera Company, acting and doing tech,” Moran said. “We put on productions all over the area of San Francisco, Belmont and Palo Alto. At this point, I still hadn’t ventured into any directing.”

In 1979, Moran was 28 years old when the family moved to Brookings. So, apparently, did a number of the town’s other now historic theater players. 

“I don’t know exactly how it happened,” he said, “but quite a few folks with the theater bug in their heads arrived here at about the same time and they all spent around 10 years doing nothing.

“Then everybody got together and the small group of us crazy people did a few plays under the banner of the Brookings Harbor Community Theater in the old Performing Arts building. There was Leanne McCurley, Chuck and Lila Moore, Bea and Andy Drago, a whole bunch of genuine theater nuts.

“In August of 1988, we all formed the Chetco Pelican Players and the first production was the western melodrama ‘Deadwood Dick,’ which I finally dared to direct. That was 25-years ago. 

Since then, he has directed 39 more shows, including “A Christmas Carol,” “Oliver!,” “Desperate Ambrose,” “Dirty Work At The Crossroads,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Diary Of Anne Frank,” “The Fantasticks,” quite a number of original Christmas revues and so many other productions. 

“I remember that ‘The Sound Of Music’ was the Chetco Pelican Players’ first musical and that was a real thrill,” Moran said. “I always pushed to do the melodramas and the musicals. Bill Smith got to direct ‘A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum’ in 2006 and this month I finally get to direct it as my 40th directed production. It opens on April 12.”

Moran also wrote and directed his own original melodrama “Thar She Blows” in 2010 and strongly hints that a sequel is now in the works. 

“Break a leg,” they all say in support of each other just before going on stage. Mike responds, “I always tell them thanks, I have two.” 

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