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Tokyo born and North Carolina raised theater director finds a home in South Philly

Pennsport resident Claire Moyer is directing the upcoming run of The Monster In the Hall at Center City’s Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake from Oct. 3 to the 21st.

It’s not uncommon for people in the theater industry — especially freelance directors — to be working on multiple things at once.

“I’m in the rehearsal and I’m guiding the rehearsal, but I’m also working with a sound designer and set designer and a props designer and sometimes I’m even working with a playwright,” said Pennsport resident Claire Moyer, who’s directing the upcoming run of “The Monster In the Hall” at Center City’s Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake Oct. 3–21. “Part of my job is to sit back and look at the whole picture and connect all the dots. While everyone has their niche and their specialization, my job is to take all these people with their specialization and make one cohesive whole [production], and I really like the artistic challenge of that”

But what is uncommon about Moyer is that she’s been overlapping performances from the production she was previously working on, “Mary Rose” at the Woodlands Mansion and Cemetery in West Philly, while also preparing for “Monster.” “Mary Rose” just finished up its run at the Woodlands last week, and now she can mostly focus on “Monster.” But for the past few weeks, things have been hectic for her, especially considering the plays were put on by different theater companies.

“Most days I go to my day job” — oh, did we mention she also has a day job working for a social services agency? — “I’ll finish the day around 3, 3:30, or 4, I’ll have a little gap of about an hour or two where I can do other work for freelance directing,” she explains. “Then I’m in rehearsals from 5 to 10, and then I will meet with my stage manager, sometimes have a meeting with designers, then go home. So it’s a long day.”

It all totals to about 55 to 60 hours a week, she said.

“But it’s great work,” she said. “It’s exhausting, but it’s totally worth it.”

“The Monster in the Hall” tells the story of 16-year-old Duck Macatarsney and her widowed father. They’re devoted to each other, but they are just getting by in their hometown of Kirkaldy, Scotland. Duck’s mother died in a motorcycle accident when Duck was just a baby and now she and her Hells Angel father take care of each other. But when Duck’s father wakes up blind from his ongoing struggles with MS, and a social worker is set to visit that day, suddenly Duck’s quest to prove to the world that she is totally normal will become a bit more challenging.

“It’s not the kind of theater where you just sit there in a dark room and stuff is performed for you,” Moyer said of the performance. “There’s a lot of talking to the audience. There’s not audience involvement — no one has to get up onstage, but the actors are talking to the audience and the music is fun and sweet and the play was originally written for a theater company that does shows for teenagers. So while it’s a totally a show for adults — I adore it — it’s also something that 15-, 16-year-olds can enjoy.”

All together, she typically directs about three plays a year. It doesn’t sound like it, but each one is about a nine-month process, so there’s a lot of overlap.

Moyer isn’t a Philadelphia native. In fact, she was born in Tokyo. She was raised in North Carolina and bounced around a few different parts of the world — including New Jersey, New York and London — before eventually settling in South Philly four and a half years ago.

“I think it’s really special,” she said of Philadelphia’s arts scene. “A lot of cities in the U.S. started looking to New York for their artists, but Philly has both homegrown and transplant artists making amazing work here. There is amazing visual artists and musicians and there’s just so much happening here. To find a city that nurtures that is pretty spectacular.”

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