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Interview: Theatre Life with Melanie Moore

Interview: Theatre Life with Melanie Moore

The actress reflects on playing Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird plus the show's relevancy today and more.

Today's subject Melanie Moore is currently living her theatre life playing the iconic literary character Scout Finch in the U.S. Tour of To Kill a Mockingbird. The show is currently in performance at Kennedy Center's Opera House and will play through July tenth.

Melanie's Broadway credits include Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, and Finding Neverland.

Other New York theatre credits include chekhov/OS an experimental game at Baryshnikov Arts Center and Arlekin Players Theatre, Cheek to Cheek: Irving Berlin in Hollywood at York Theatre Company, A Chorus Line at Encores! at New York City Center, and Freddie Falls in Love at Signature Theatre and Joyce Theatre).

You might remember Melanie from the hit Fox TV show So You Think You Can Dance. She was a Season 8 winner and all-star.

Other TV credits include The Gilded Age on HBO, Halston on Netflix, and Glee on FOX.
On the big screen you might have seen Melanie in In The Heights.

I recently saw Melanie's performance in To Kill a Mockingbird and two things came to mind after watching her performance and the show in general.

First off, Melanie Moore's portrayal of Scout Finch is equaled to Celia Keenan-Bolger's Broadway performance. It's not a copy. She makes the role her own and does a damn good job of doing so.

Secondly, this is one of the best touring shows I've seen in a while. I was a bit nervous about seeing a play in the Opera House but you can hear every word and enjoy every single performance.

I urge anyone that enjoys good theatre to grab some tickets for To Kill a Mockingbird at Kennedy Center.

Melanie Moore's performance is fantastic and shows you how an artist can and is living her theatre life to the fullest.

At what age did you know that performing was going to be your chosen profession?
I have been dancing since I was three, and I've always loved to be on stage. I think that I started seriously considering performing as a career when I was in middle school and my hope/goal was then (and still is now) to just be able to make a living and pay my bills by doing what I love- performing.

Where did you receive your training?
I started dancing at three in Marietta, Georgia, moved dance studios when I was in high school to Rhythm Dance Center and trained there until I was 18. I was lucky enough to start working professionally at 19 and the rest of my training has either been on the job- trial by fire- or private coaching in NYC with my voice teacher, Ric Ryder or friends in the industry.

Interview: Theatre Life with Melanie Moore
L-R Richard Thomas and Melanie Moore in the U.S. Tour
of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Had you seen this current version of To Kill a Mockingbird prior to auditioning for the national tour?
I had seen this production of Mockingbird. I was at their opening night and fell in love with the show. I was thrilled when the audition came my way a few months later.

Can you please tell us how Aaron Sorkin's adaptation differs from the novel, movie and other stage versions?
Our production is going to be different from what people may be expecting or remember from both the movie and the book of To Kill a Mockingbird. Aaron Sorkin has done such a beautiful job adapting the story for the stage. Our play is a memory play that centers on the trial of Tom Robinson and the events that followed which affected the Finch family. Scout is looking back at her memories, with the help of Jem and Dill, to get to the bottom of large questions she has about her father, Atticus, the trial and the mysterious death of Bob Ewell.

Interview: Theatre Life with Melanie Moore
Melanie Moore in the U.S. Tour of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

Why do you think To Kill a Mockingbird is still relevant today?
To Kill a Mockingbird is, sadly, still extremely relevant today. You could change a few details about the Tom Robinson case in our story, and it could've been taken from a headline today, in 2022, not in 1934 Alabama. I hope that people come to see our show and see the parallels to the way America is today and that it makes them want to go out and create real change, get involved in their communities, vote, etc. so that 50 years from now, Mockingbird is a story that no longer looks like the present.

You won season eight of So You Think You Can Dance. Can you please talk about your overall experience of being on that show?
Yes! I won SYTYCD in 2011, as a 19-year-old and it jump started my career as a performer. I loved every minute of being on the show and it was an amazing experience for me. I owe so much to the show. It is like a professional bootcamp for the dance industry: you're getting to work with some of the top choreographers in the industry and you can learn so much from each one of them. I was a sponge and it was absolutely a formative experience for me. I'm thrilled they've just come back for Season 17!!

National tours have to play houses of all sizes. Are there any adjustments that you make in your performance playing the show in a theatre that seats 1,800 versus a house of 4,000? (Think places like the Fox in Atlanta)

We have the privilege of playing some very large houses which means we get to share this story with even more people than we could if the houses just seated 1800. Of course, there are small things that you change to adjust for the audience size, but I think it changes more for the structure and sound in different theaters than for the number of seats. For example: some houses are quite tall so you have to adjust sight lines in order to play to the full audience, some houses don't have sound that comes back to you so you have to project more to get the sound out to the audience, but no matter the number of seats or the type of theater, our director Bart Sher has done such a brilliant job of moving the energy and getting the crackle on stage with the dialogue between actors, and if we can create real, vibrant energy amongst ourselves it will extend out to the audience no matter the size.

As the tour continues, what are you most looking forward to in bringing To Kill a Mockingbird to audiences across the country?

I'm looking forward to so much about traveling this show across the US. Our audiences have been unbelievable and it is beautiful to see how universally moving this production is from place to place. I am mostly looking forward to sharing the story with as many people as we can, making them laugh and cry with us, and inspiring real and maybe hard conversations across the country about what we can learn from To Kill a Mockingbird and how we move forward so that this story isn't as relevant today.

Special thanks to Kennedy Center's terriffic tag team publicity duo of Brittany Laeger Press Representative, Ballet/Dance and Education and Brendan Padgett Director, Public Relations for their assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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