Bill Moore, technical director for Theater Emory and lecturer in the theater studies program, has always had a love of theater and teaching in his blood, but for the past year or so, he's had a lot of extra sugar as well. Moore is one of three partners in the popular local confectioner, The Dessert Place.
Moore and his partner of 16 years, Robert Furrey, became owners of the business in February 1996 along with Meg Moore-McIntyre. Furrey managed the business for 14 years prior to taking over, so becoming owner was not a great stretch. He oversees the operations of the full service location in Virginia Highland and the production and pick-up facility on E. Paces Ferry Rd. and does most of the baking as well. Moore has the enviable position of serving as the "royal food taster."
"Every week for almost a year I had two or three different versions of a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie to try," said Moore. "The red velvet cake that Sylvia's downtown sells took several months [to develop]."
Under Furrey's directorship, the focus of The Dessert Place is more on wholesale business and developing new products. They currently have about 80 wholesale clients including all 32 Starbucks and 11 Caribou locations in Atlanta. The rise in business has prompted the purchase of two additional ovens.
Covering lots of terrain
Moore, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, has certainly traveled a long way-literally and figuratively-since his first job as a teacher just outside Chicago. His family moved to the area when he was in grade school, and it was during those years that Moore was first bitten by the theater bug.
His mother was the proverbial professional volunteer who introduced him to the backstage. He still remembers vividly the moment he was hooked-viewing a production of Brigadoon by Chicago Lyric Opera.
"There was a scrim with a scene painted on it that hid the village," Moore recalled. "It was lit just right so that you didn't notice it was a scrim. Several fog machines were going, so when the scrim started to rise, the fog came billowing out from underneath. It looked like a city sitting in the fog. I looked at my mother and said 'I have to know how they did that.'" She arranged for a backstage tour and unveiling of "the magic."
Moore went on to study economics and political science at the University of Illinois, but spent his free time working at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and volunteering in stagecraft for the theater program.
Following graduation, he taught middle school geography to upper class Chicago suburbanites, whose extensive knowledge of geography usually came from their world travels. He then moved to the high school level to teach economics while pursuing graduate degrees in education and statistics at Southern Illinois University. During that time he took courses in theater studies at SIU and Northwestern as well. But it was two semesters of teaching civics to high school kids in a prison release program the provided him with a definitive teaching moment.
"I was petrified," Moore confessed, "but so were these kids. Here are these kids from the Chicago inner city who have been bussed 45 minutes to a school where the kids are all dressed to the hilt in the latest fashions." The students appreciated the opportunity to be there, however, and took their education seriously. One day near the end of the fall semester, the group brought in a large, bulky trash bag and set it beside his desk. After it became obvious he wasn't going to open it, the group's "leader" asked, "Aren't you even curious? Go ahead." Moore removed the trash bag to reveal a miniature Christmas tree complete with decorations. "There I stood, tears in my eyes," Moore recalled.
Turning to theatre design full time
Moore later left teaching and went to work for a professional design firm that produced many of the sets for touring theatrical companies. A transfer to Atlanta brought him in contact with Theater Emory, then only about six months old. He did some jobs for the theater while still working for the design firm, but a few months later Assistant Theatre and Film Studies Chair Randy Fullerton lured Moore to Emory full time.
This year Moore directed the construction of the 17th century theatre replica, the Black Rose, set inside Mary Gray Munroe Theater. Canadian designer Bill Zimmerman did the research and drawings for the shell while Moore and Mark Erbaugh designed the interior space.
Proud of the success of the Black Rose, Moore points to a visit by students from the Atlanta School for the Deaf as a recent highlight. A group of about 17 students visited the theater in February to see the space and learn its history. They then rehearsed scenes from Romeo & Juliet, which they were about to perform at their school.
"It was so neat seeing these kids transcend their disability and to see their excitement for the theater," said Moore.
Being behind the scenes in the theater and dessert businesses suits Moore just fine. "I love never being seen," he said. "I love going up into the control booth, watching the audience come in and seeing their reaction to the set we've built. Plus I love teaching, so being at Emory combines the best of both worlds for me."
Serving as the "official taster" of The Dessert Place doesn't sound too bad either.
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