When economics associate professor Mark Moore introduces himself as both an economist and an actor, he often raises eyebrows.
“Some people are surprised that an economist is involved with theater,” Moore said. “I’m sure some think it’s odd but, by and large, people are used to the idea that people have many hats.”
Though Moore now successfully balances his two careers and has a one-man play running in the Village Gate theatre next week, his journey to the stage was at times an upward battle.
Individuals, such as his father and his economics mentor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, held expectations for Moore’s life that conflicted with his own.
“At the time, I thought, ‘Do I betray my father, my mentor or myself?’” Moore said.
After teaching at USC for three years, he took a year off in 2006 to earn a master’s in fine arts at the Shakespeare Theatre Company Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University.
Moore returned to teach at USC in 2007 but still embraces his “unlikely creative obsession” by performing and writing on the side.
“Balancing it all is a fun challenge and a work in progress,” Moore said. “It’s a struggle, but it’s not a bad struggle. It’s an interesting one.”
Moore believes the two professions complement each other better than most might think. He attributes his experience and professional education in acting to the teaching styles he has developed as a USC professor.
“Giving an economics lecture that doesn’t have raw emotional power can be a bit difficult,” Moore said. “But through my acting background, I’ve learned to keep the classroom alive in a way that the stage to me is alive.”
Moore’s upcoming show, Crooked Roads, explores his struggle to make the most challenging decisions of his life: balancing his interest in economics and his passion for acting. Though he graduated from MIT to pursue a career in the classroom, he still itched to be on stage.
“Acting demands a full commitment of yourself both physically and emotionally,” Moore said. “The ability to share that live on stage is amazing to me.”
In addition to playing each character himself, Moore wrote and produced the show. He said he looks forward to expressing himself to a USC audience.
“It’s a great experience to write your own words and to get a chance to perform them,” Moore said. “And it’s tremendously rewarding to just say something that’s in you to say.”
Jessica Stauffer, a junior majoring in economics, personally relates to the play’s premise. After taking two courses with Moore, Stauffer met with him to help her choose her major and discuss which career path best suited her interests.
“It’s ironic that the play is about Professor Moore figuring out what to do with this life, because those are the very conversations I have had with him,” Stauffer said. “He really helped me figure out a plan for my future, so I am excited to support him since he first supported me.”
Moore said the show will resonate with USC students, especially since choosing a career path lies just around the corner for them.
“Students are about to face important life decisions with competing expectations,” Moore said. “I think the show really strikes a chord with this audience, which is really what I’m in it for in the end.”
Crooked Roads plays at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29 and Thursday, Jan. 31 at the Village Gate Theater. Admission is $10 for students, faculty, staff and alumni.