Lavinia Moyer, a fixture in Detroit's professional theatre community as the founding artistic director of the Attic Theatre, has returned to the Motor City to direct, act and teach after three years of teaching and directing in Minnesota.
Moyer helmed the Attic 1976-94, through years that saw great promise, artistic success and, finally, financial despair for the nonprofit. The Attic for many years was considered the city of Detroit's most artistically sound resident theatre, but a fire at its Greektown-area location began years of financial instability that saw the company move to various spaces, including a partially-renovated Strand Theatre in downtown Pontiac, MI (1992-94).
The Attic recently limped along artistically and financially at a space in Trapper's Alley, in Detroit's Greektown, before presenting sporadically in Pontiac (after being shut out of the Strand by the city of Pontiac).
The Attic Moyer knew -- one of subscribers and promise and donations and returning artists and Equity actors -- is gone now.
But Moyer, 52, has returned from teaching acting and directing at St. Olaf College in Minnesota to teach at her artistic home, Detroit's Wayne State University, where she earned her master's degree in directing. She is an adjunct instructor in WSU's undergraduate theatre department and also at the University of Detroit Mercy. "It feels pretty good to be back," she told Playbill On-Line Dec. 22. "I loved teaching in Minnesota, it was a wonderful liberal arts college with fabulous colleagues. I did classical plays, with large casts, on a proscenium stage."
But, she said, her husband, James Hart, and daughter, Jaime Moyer, stayed behind in Detroit, and the idea of a commuter family was wearing thin after three years.
Moyer staged the Dec. 3-12 WSU Bonstelle Theatre undergraduate production of Romeo and Juliet, her first directing gig in Detroit in several years. She will follow up with the professional Jewish Ensemble Theatre's Diary of Anne Frank (the recent Broadway script) in February 2000. She may act or direct for an emerging women's theatre group in Detroit, Nell's Girls, in spring and will act in Kim Carney's Maggie Rose for Heartlande Theatre Company in Ann Arbor in summer 2000.
In 1989, Moyer directed The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail at WSU's graduate Hilberry Theatre and has taught acting and directing at WSU in previous years.
As an actress or director, she was involved in more than 100 productions at the Attic, which started as a small touring troupe before settling in a Greektown attic space, above a restaurant. In its heyday, the Attic was producing Detroit premieres of Off-Broadway style works by William Finn, August Wilson, Sam Shepard, Romulus Linney and more, plus world premieres and revivals of classics.
Is Moyer sentimental about the past days of the Attic?
"I'm very proud of what was accomplished over the 19 years I was with the company," she said. "Our hallmark was a lot of Michigan premieres and a lot of work by Michigan playwrights."
But, she adds with a chuckle, "I hope to never have to be responsible for another payroll for as long as I live..."
-- By Kenneth Jones