Joyce Meggerson-Moore, of Stanton Heights, has led New Horizon Theater for more than two decades as chair of its Board of Directors, and, over the years, she has filled several other roles with the organization, such as company cook and chauffeur.
Since 1992, the East Liberty-based theater has been producing plays that tell stories that reflect African-American perspectives.
Meggerson-Moore spoke about the value of community theater with 90.5 WESA's Elaine Effort for our series 90.5 WESA Celebrates: 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories.
Below are excerpts of their discussion.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
On how she first got involved with New Horizon Theater and what’s kept her involved over more than two decades:
Elva Branson, who actually founded New Horizon Theater, Inc., asked me if I would volunteer at the reception for the new play. And I agreed to do that and have been there ever since—and that's been 27 years—but I didn't take an active leadership role until she left.
What keeps me motivated, I guess, are the different plays that we do, the audiences that we have. All the plays are different—we have comedies, we have drama, we have musicals. So, the process, I think, is what's really important to me and it's fulfilling too.
On the types of plays the theater presents, and why she feels its important the community hears these stories:
One of the ones we do at the beginning of the season is, we've started doing a historical piece. We did "The Ballad of Emmett Till." You remember that horrible story about Emmett Till, the 14-year-old young man who was lynched down in Mississippi. We did "Josh: The Black Babe Ruth," about Josh Gibson. We've done "Detroit '67" about the riots or civil rebellion in Detroit in the 1960s.
So, those are kinds of plays that we believe people need to see. Particularly our young people.
On the fulfillment she finds in her community theater work compared to her professional work in mental health.
I'm going to say equally important because some of the people I worked with before I started doing this—and I've been doing this all the time too, while I've been doing my job in community mental health. That was fulfilling too, working with our clients, and I was an administrator and being an administrator there has helped with this work.
We always call ourselves "the theater with heart," because we know the people who come in and sometimes we drive them home when their ride hasn't come. We also pay our cast and crew, but not what I'd like to pay them. So, we try to make up in other ways. We have this opening night reception where we have this excellent food, and everybody gets to meet the people from the outside. Then, at the end, we have this cast party with all kinds of food. Homemade food, I might add.
I'm the cook too. And my husband's the cook. So, we try to make up in little other ways. We know the food doesn't pay you off, but at least we try to show them that we really appreciate the work that they do.