Bradley Moss’s Backstage Presence

After building a reputation on thought-provoking contemporary theatre, the Theatre Network’s artistic director puts on a classic.

Photography by Colin Way; Styling by Sheena Haug

Bradley Moss doesn’t like the spotlight. He says the attention he receives overwhelms him. “I’m a director for a reason,” he says. “I like being behind the scenes.” And yet, the hot halogen lights follow the 46-year-old theatre director wherever he goes.

Born and raised in southeast Quebec, Moss was studying commerce at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Que., in the late ’80s, but was drawn to theatre by a classmate who urged him to take an optional drama class for an easy A. It fired a passion in him he hadn’t known about, and his first paycheque as an actor made him realize he could do it for a living. He would go on to win college awards for his performances and, upon graduation, headed west to the Vancouver arts scene.

But it has been his last 18 years in Edmonton, where he earned an MFA in theatre direction from the University of Alberta, that Moss has become a force. In 1995 he founded Nextfest and became the father to the youth-based arts festival for up-and-comers (though, “grandfather is more like it,” he says.) After becoming artistic director of the venerable Theatre Network in 1998, he went on to direct memorable plays, such as 2003’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which won him a Sterling Award for outstanding direction.

His oeuvre is thought-provoking contemporary theatre, but this June and July Moss is taking on the Bard’s romp of cross-dressing and mistaken identities when he directs Twelfth Night for the Freewill Shakespeare Festival. “I’m excited because it’s a big challenge. I usually do smaller plays, so working with a bigger cast, well, it’s trs exciting,” he says.

But on the day of our interview he’s not nervous about Shakespeare or the scope of the 14-person cast. He’s nervous about the spotlight.

Above: Bowtie from Derks, Calvin Klein shirt and Sy Devore tuxedo jacket.

You seem uncomfortable. Why is this interview scary for you?

This is terrifically scary. I don’t know – I get cold sweats. Really, that is why I’m a director, I think. I love being in the rehearsal hall, I love making discoveries, the whole process. But being in the spotlight? That’s a different kind of job. And it’s really unnerving for me. I love audiences, but I don’t want to be there getting the applause. I want to be behind the scenes.

But you started out as an actor. When did you decide you wanted to be behind the scenes?

I think I probably always knew that directing was where I wanted to be, even as far back as my Bishop’s University days. I mean, I loved acting – still do. I think it’s amazing how you grow as a person when you’re acting – overcoming your fears in front of an audience, diving into aspects of yourself to become this other person. I get all that, I just like the rehearsal part. So, in that way, directing is a really good fit.

What compels you to do this kind of work?

In the theatre, there’s this incredible sense of immediacy you don’t get in any other medium. When you have live actors, and a live audience, and the story is happening in real time, it’s a kind of communion between the people on stage and the audience. In a lot of ways it’s more connected to church than anything else. That’s what makes theatre different than movies. Movies are a keyhole experience. You’re the viewer, but rarely do you feel the audience is a group, that you’re experiencing something together. In the theatre, the live actor helps connect everyone and we all share the moment together. That’s why I love theatre: Things happen each night that will never happen again. And that’s a special experience.

Is that why you started Nextfest, to share that kind of experience with youth?

I believe in mentorship and I’m glad that we’ve been able to foster a mentorship attitude with Nextfest. It’s about creating a community, and about ensuring the strength of that community continues to develop. I’m thrilled that young folks, who got started with Nextfest 10, 12, 15 years ago, are still a part of our community, and are giving back too. We’re lucky to have this kind of festival in the city, and I’m glad that it has grown to include all kinds of artists, from actors to writers to filmmakers.

Above: Oscar de la Renta suit from Holt Renfrew and Calvin Klein shirt.

How does your work dictate your fashion sense?

I believe I have perfected the look of the “urban camper.” I like clothes I can move in and clothes that are well-constructed and durable. Also, I sometimes like to throw in something a little wild, something that clashes. I think because I’m an artist, that kind of style is expected somehow. But, for my job, I need to have a variety of options, from clothes I can roll around on the floor in, to dress-up clothes for opening night.

What do you wear to opening night?

A crisp black shirt and a pair of dress pants is my usual for opening night. I have a thing for black shirts. I have about seven of them. And I’m very particular about how I treat them – always hang-dry. You never want to put black shirts in the dryer, boys, ’cause they’ll fade.

Above: Jacket was a gift from a friend and Montreal Canadiens t-shirt from the Oilers Store in Kingsway Mall.

Where do you shop?

I actually get a lot of my clothes from Theatre Network and costume designers such as Leona Brausen and Sheena Haug. I have a joke that I only hire actors who are my size so I can steal their wardrobes. But when I actually have to buy my own clothes, I head to MEC. And actually, I have a couple of Sam Abouhassan suits, but I bought them at Value Village. Maybe Sam Abouhassan will give me one of his suits because of this article [laughs].

Do you care about labels?

Not really. Actually, I have no respect for labels. Wait, that’s harsh. I just don’t have much brand loyalty. I’m more concerned about the quality of an item, so I’m not particularly label-fixated. I want clothing that is classic, that’s going to have a long shelf-life.

Your dog is almost as well-known as you are. How does she fit into your style? Your life?

I believe I am her guardian. Her name is Bella. She’s a Vizsla, which is a Hungarian bird dog. She’s a talky dog, likes to let you know what’s going on. She’s 50 pounds and a high-energy breed, so we spend lots of time walking. She’s a very regal, noble-looking dog. I tell people she’s my girlfriend. She’s very sensitive, you have to be very constructive with her when you’re disciplining her. Very instructive and positive. Kind of like working with actors, you know?

Above: Kenneth Cole Reaction shirt, pants from Mexx and Marco Battisti shoes.


Play Summer of My Amazing Luck by Chris Craddock

Film Apocalypse Now

Book A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Website Notebook, Daniel McIvor’s blog

Song Cowgirl in the Sand by Neil Young

Beverage Root Beer

Hair stylist Kelly Oneschuk at Shag Hair

Local landmark Legislature grounds

Clothing store for him MEC

Clothing store for dog, Bella Divine Canine

Accessory iPhone

Event Folk Fest

TV Show The Dog Whisperer

Actor John Wright

Actress Marianne Copithorne

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