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Marjorie Moon

Theatre producer and director Marjorie Moon was born on May 14, 1946, in Kokomo, Indiana. For over thirty years, Moon served as the President and Executive Director of the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, New York. Moon’s passion for theater began early as she spent time at the Karamu House Theater in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1964, Moon received her diploma from Collinwood High School; around the same time, she became one of the youngest members in the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra. In 1968, Moon earned her B.A. degree from Ohio University and went on to complete her studies at Temple University in 1970 with an M.A. degree.

Moon began her professional career teaching acting at Hampton University. Moving to New York in 1973, Moon became the Executive Director of the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, a theatre that has provided African American playwrights, set-builders, and other creative individuals an arena to work and nurture their talents.

As a director, Moon has worked on several plays, including Weldon Irvine’s Young, Gifted and Broke, which ran for eight months and won four prestigious AUDELCO Awards. Moon also directed a production of Over Forty at the New Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia. As a producer, Moon produced more than 150 productions. In 1981, Inacent Black, a play originally produced at the Billie Holiday Theatre, opened on Broadway, starring Melba Moore.

Moon received several awards for her work in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. In 2005, the Billie Holiday Theatre received a $900,000 grant for its line-up of new plays.

Accession Number

A2007.030

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/25/2007

Last Name

Moon

Maker Category
Schools

Collinwood High School

Rosedale Elementary School

Ohio University

Temple University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Marjorie

Birth City, State, Country

Kokomo

HM ID

MOO09

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Indiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

We Can Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/14/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue (Chicken)

Short Description

Stage director and stage producer Marjorie Moon (1946 - ) served as the president and executive director of the Billie Holiday Theatre, in addition to directing and producing several plays.

Employment

Hampton Institute

Billie Holiday Theatre

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marjorie Moon's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marjorie Moon lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Marjorie Moon describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marjorie Moon describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marjorie Moon describes her father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marjorie Moon describes her paternal aunt

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marjorie Moon talks about her parents' education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marjorie Moon describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marjorie Moon recalls attending churches in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Marjorie Moon recalls attending churches in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marjorie Moon talks about her sister

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marjorie Moon describes her childhood holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marjorie Moon remembers her exposure to theater at Rosedale Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marjorie Moon describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marjorie Moon recalls the development of her racial identity

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marjorie Moon remembers playing the double bass in junior high school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marjorie Moon recalls playing double bass in the Cleveland Women's Orchestra

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marjorie Moon remembers Collinwood High School in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marjorie Moon remembers her bass audition for Ohio University

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Marjorie Moon recalls the African American actors at Cleveland's Karamu House

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Marjorie Moon describes her interest in psychology

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marjorie Moon recalls the image of Emmett Till in Jet magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marjorie Moon describes her experiences of discrimination in Athens, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marjorie Moon recalls the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marjorie Moon recalls her refusal to be cast in a stereotyped role at Ohio University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marjorie Moon remembers her aspiration to become an actress

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marjorie Moon recalls teaching at Hampton Institute

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marjorie Moon remembers the murder of her brother-in-law

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marjorie Moon recalls her decision to move to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Marjorie Moon remembers her auditions in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Marjorie Moon recalls becoming the director of the Billy Holiday Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Marjorie Moon recalls directing 'Sunshine Loving' at the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marjorie Moon talks about African American theater in the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marjorie Moon remembers directing 'Inacent Black and the Five Brothers'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Marjorie Moon recalls her Broadway production of 'Inacent Black and the Five Brothers'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Marjorie Moon remembers closing 'Inacent Black and the Five Brothers'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Marjorie Moon describes New York City's African American theater companies

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Marjorie Moon describes the Coalition of Theaters of Color

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Marjorie Moon describes actors who came out of the New York City theater community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Marjorie Moon describes the role of the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Marjorie Moon talks about African American stage technicians

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Marjorie Moon reflects upon her mission at the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Marjorie Moon describes the planned renovations to the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Marjorie Moon talks about the name of the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Marjorie Moon talks about 'Free the Peoples'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Marjorie Moon talks about the playwrights whose work she staged

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Marjorie Moon describes the Billie Holiday Theatre's community programming

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Marjorie Moon talks about playwright T.R. Riggins

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Marjorie Moon talks about the community of Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Marjorie Moon describes the opportunities for African Americans on Broadway

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Marjorie Moon talks about Ramona King's play, 'Steal Away'

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Marjorie Moon reflects upon her career at the Billie Holiday Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Marjorie Moon talks about nontraditional casting

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Marjorie Moon shares her hopes for the Billie Holiday Theatre

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
Marjorie Moon recalls the development of her racial identity
Marjorie Moon talks about the playwrights whose work she staged
Transcript
Before we move on to your high school years [at Collinwood High School, Cleveland, Ohio], can you tell me when it was that you remember either being told or becoming aware that you were black, in a sense that, you know, you're black (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Oh I know exactly when, I was six years old at Rosedale [Rosedale Elementary School, Cleveland, Ohio]. I had two friends, Rhonda [ph.] and Kenneth [ph.]. And every May 23rd, I'll wake up and say, "Oh Happy Birthday Rhonda and Kenneth." And--and they were white. And, so one day we were walking home from school. They lived two blocks from where I lived and so we could walk the same way. And about six really big guys, I think they were high schoolers. You know, when you're six years old, you don't have to be but so old to be bigger than what we were at the time. And they surrounded us. They surrounded us and it looked like they had a gun. I--I really didn't know what a real gun looked like, so. "Ah, okay. We'll keep the nigger, let's let these other two go. We'll keep the nigger." I got so happy, I got so happy, "Oh my name's Margie [HistoryMaker Marjorie Moon], I'm not nigger. My name's Margie. You got the wrong person." You know, and it was the oddest thing, and I was convinced they had the wrong person until they left. I mean, they--in other words I guess it was no fun for them because I was not intimidated, scared by what they were saying, because I thought they had the wrong person, you know. And then, Rhonda and Kenneth said to me as we were walking, as they left us and we walked on--continued to walk on, "You know, Margie we don't think of you as any different. You know, you--you've always been our friend, we don't--." I'm thinking, what are they talking about? And so I went home, "Mommy [Ruth Black Moon] what is a nigger?" Six years old. And the shame. I mean, my friends knew something about me that I didn't know. And--and mother also knew something about it and I'm--I'm not--I'm saying, my goodness, it--it makes you feel extremely insecure because there--there's something that--there's something about you and somehow you feel like it's just you when you're that young too, you know. And--and there's something about you. And the other thing that was really kind of--kind of horrible was that, my mother is very fair. And my father [William Moon] is a little browner then myself and oh, more, yeah browner than me. And so, then I began to get into the color thing. Just instantaneously, all of that began to seem to happen and I became aware of it. And it--it--it really is, it's unfortunate. It's a very negative thing.$$How did you become over the color thing, what--explain it to me?$$Well--$$That she was lighter, so she was better than he was because he was darker?$$Well, at least she was getting closer to the, to the color of choice obviously where that was favored. I mean, you know, what did I know? I mean, I'm trying to understand this and I'm not sure why she's like that and my father's different, you know. And--and my mother, in her family too, she has a--her older sister and she look alike, and then she has two very ebony other sisters. And so, I--I began to--to wonder what that was about. And her father [Frank Black] was very fair and had--when I see him he'd have this gray beard and this gray hair, and I thought he was Santa Claus. I mean, you know, I mean in other words he just--because he looked almost white. So, those things, you know, kids, it's amazing what they can think and, and starts germinating. That's why we gotta work with them when they are young and--and try to bring out questions they might have, because you never know what they're thinking and how they can be thinking wrong. But that was a real turning point, which obviously I remember it because there--there was, you know, there was that fear factor that was in there when they first surrounded us as children. And then I'm thinking, what do they mean, they don't see me as different because I had never seen myself as different. It's amazing that perception, that gets in your head and it can really do some damage. Yeah. So, yeah, I--I remember (laughter).$We didn't talk about, and I guess we should, sort of African American playwrights that you may have helped to cultivate their talents? I know you made--or you can just tell me some of the people you've worked with to help cultivate their talents.$$Okay. Well, Joyce Sylvester. She--she's been around for about five years in terms as a playwright and we've done all of her plays, which have been wonderful. She has a unique pulse to the community which is what we're really looking for. Well before that, Samm-Art Williams who wrote 'Home' and even received a Tony [Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre] nomination for 'Home.'$$Right, and 'Home' was what got you back on your feet after the Broadway?$$No, we didn't do 'Home' after that.$$No? Okay.$$No, no, no, no. We have not done 'Home' actually. But, we did two plays of his before he was even--we did his first productions period in New York [New York]. He hadn't been produced anywhere else before Billie Holiday Theatre [New York, New York]. So, and so, he went on, not only did he do 'Home' and got all of those awards and accolades, but he went on to Hollywood and became a television producer with 'Martin,' 'Hangin' with Mr. Cooper,' 'Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' ['The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'] and just on and on and on. And he's--he's a prolific writer. We've done plays of his since, but we were the first to do his. Another one, John, who's left is John Henry Redwood, wrote 'Old Settler' ['The Old Settler], and that was done in the city and that was also done by HBO and Debbie Allen and Phylicia, her sister, [HistoryMaker] Phylicia Rashad were the two older women in 'Old Settler.' And Debbie also directed it. Well, we did his very first play, which was 'Mark VIII:xxxvi' [John Henry Redwood] and we did that in 1986. He and his wife came to visit me and they said that they wanted to rent the theater [Billie Holiday Theatre, New York, New York]. And I don't know there was something that caught me about them and I said, "Well, why don't you let me read the play?" And so I did and it was about switching babies at birth. Now this had not been in the news at all, and there was a white family and black family. The white family was a senator and his wife, and the black family was a poor family. It was really, it was quite dynamic. It really--you heard about it a lot now, but back then you really hadn't. And so, we did it. It was the first time it had ever been produced and I'm very proud of that. And we produced a couple of others of his since then. And he's passed a couple years ago, but he was a wonderful writer. Weldon Irvine, I must've done about fifteen of his plays, musicals, 'Over Forty.' The book was by Celeste Walker, but Weldon wrote the lyrics and the music, and we took that around the country for a little bit. It was--it was truly wonderful, about women fearing becoming forty years old.$$It's called 'Over Forty' the title, yeah?$$'Over Forty,' yeah, yeah. And Cliff Roquemore, we did his 'Lotto' ['Lotto: Experience the Dream,' Cliff Roquemore] about a family in California winning ten thou- $10 million. A rags-to-riches story that the audience loved, course people love rags-to-riches stories all the time. Did a play that I was really proud to do and it was really quite poignant and dynamic, it's called 'Boochie' [Mari Evans], it was about child abuse. And it was about the--why a woman allowed her man to correct (air quotes), abuse her child. The psychological dynamics in that relationship that she felt that she was supporting him and she didn't wanna tear him down and she wanted to give him the authorization to be a constructive figure to her child in her child's life. And it was--it was dynamic. And--so, and we got to have discussions afterwards. It was a very important subject matter and I was very pleased to be able to do it.