J. Robert “Jimmy” Moore has been named as the new executive and artistic director of the Classic Theater of San Antonio. He replaces Kelly Hilliard Roush, who departed in May of this year after six seasons.
A San Antonio native, Moore spent years after college touring and performing around the country. He has since made his way back to the Alamo City. Here, he tells ArtScene SA why he came back — and what he hopes to achieve with the Classic.
Tell us a bit about your background and what brings you back to San Antonio.
I grew up here and went to Marshall High School. After high school, I went to Texas State University for an undergraduate production and performance degree. Afterwards, I moved to New York and worked there for about seven years. I also toured and did all those great things you do as a young performer.
At a certain point, I felt like I wanted to take more ownership of the types of shows I was doing. I wanted to have more of a creative voice at the table, so I decided to go back to school for directing. I chose Texas State University’s MFA program. I wanted to take advantage of all the community ties that Texas State has with the area.
I always wanted to come back to San Antonio and bring all of the things I’ve learned from working other places back here to the arts community. Texas State really was a great place for me, because it really set me up to freelance in South Texas and all the way up to Oklahoma. So that’s what I’ve been doing since graduate school. I also was the artistic director of Zilker Theatre Productions in Austin, which gave me a great bird’s eye view of what we bring to our audiences and what types of audiences we have. Also, the support we get from the arts community — we get a great deal from them.
Then this job kind of came up. I was living in Houston at the start of 2020 right as COVID began. I always wanted to move back to San Antonio, and that became a viable option at that point. So we moved down here and bought a historic home. I planned to spend a couple of years freelancing and rehabbing this house. Then the opportunity at the Classic came up when Kelly and her family took an opportunity in Minneapolis.
I felt that this was a really great time to reinvest in the theater community here — to bring ideas that I’ve learned in other places back to San Antonio.
So while you were gone you kept tabs on what was going on in the San Antonio theater community?
Absolutely. I have a lot of friends who are working artists here, and I kept in touch with then to keep up with what was going on in San Antonio. Especially with the Classic. I actually started there as a young performer when they were also a young company. I did shows with them around 2009-2010. I’ve always been very good friends with several of the founders. In fact, the house that my husband and I bought used to belong to Diane and Rick Malone. It really felt like it was meant to be when that position came up. I’m very honored and humbled that the board at the Classic felt like I was the right person to take the company to its next chapter.
How do you think San Antonio theater has evolved in the past ten years or so?
There have been a lot of changes. It’s really taken great strides in quality and professionalism. And some of the smaller theaters are creating very unique pieces that are essential to South Texas. I mean, San Antonio is one of the top 10 cities in the country, and other places are creating all sorts of theatrical experiences. I think it should be no different here. There are a lot of people working here to make that happen.
The next show will still be at the Botanical Gardens?
Yes, the next two shows, in fact — A Doll’s House Part 2 and Misalliance.
Going forward, where do you see shows being staged for the Classic?
I think it would be terrific for us to eventually find our own space. We’re one of the only major companies in town that doesn’t have its own theater. That’s definitely something that’s important to me and the board, so that’s an initiative I’ll be investigating. Having lots of talks about what that might be like and what neighborhoods we might be interested in.
I think there’s lots of site-specific and experiential theater that’s happening in other parts of the country that would definitely work in San Antonio. While it really would be nice to have a space, I think it’s great that we have this relationship with the Gardens. We absolutely want to keep doing that, and we would also be very interested in seeing where else we might do really great things.
In terms of an artistic approach, what imprint would you want to put on the Classic productions?
I think it’s essential for people to know that what we’re doing at the Classic is not your high school English class. It’s definitely alive and vibrant, and the reason these shows are classics is that they continue to be relevant and continue to tell us about our world and ourselves no matter when they were written. That’s something I’ll keep in mind as I move forward and create new seasons.
Also, we definitely want to include pieces that have minority voices. One of the things I continue to say is that we must give authentic voices a chance to be heard, right? It’s not just about casting a black actor in a play written by a white playwright. It’s about offering that actor a chance to appear in a show written by a black author and directed by a black director. We want to produce the most authentic and honest version of that piece of theater possible.
Any breaking news to announce?
Not at this moment, but we’ve got a lot of exciting things in the hopper. There are a lot of things percolating that audiences are really going to love.