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Curtain Call

Cultural Park Theater’s Michael Moran set to retire at the end of September

By CJ HADDAD - | Sep 23, 2021


What started off as merely an audition turned into a role of a lifetime for Michael Moran. Now, after nearly two decades of service, he is stepping down — not away — as the face of Cultural Park Theater.

Moran, who has served as Cultural Park Theater’s executive director since 2008/2009, is retiring at the end of this month — his final curtain call after a well-respected run and difference-making performance.

He’s made memories to last a lifetime and created bonds with all who walk through the theater doors.

“It’s the people that utilize this theater, not just the actors and the patrons themselves that come here and the volunteers that come here,” Moran said. “They are so much a part of my actual family. The memories of all of those people will be special forever. Putting talent aside, the busy schedules — the people themselves have been uniquely amazing people to get to know and work with, and that includes our patrons.”

Moran said the old adage of doing something you love equating to never working a day in your life, “is true for me in spades.”

And what a journey it’s been for the Ohio native and Army veteran.

Moran’s love of the arts started in high school and continued into his adult life. After an unfortunate incident in the Army where a machine gun malfunctioned in his face and damaged his vision, he was assigned to help build a community theater for soldiers on a base in Germany for four years.

“When I came back and got out of the service, I went to New York and I was doing theater there,” he said.

While in the Big Apple, Moran’s father became ill, and he returned to Youngstown to care for him. While he was back home, he enrolled in college and studied accounting, thinking he needed a fallback career if theater didn’t pan out. He never did return to New York and decided to continue on with his accounting career. Moran, wanting to thwart the northern winters, relocated to Florida and worked for various companies in the Southwest Florida area.

“That was my career and theater seldom fit into it,” he said.

Moran first stumbled upon the city’s longest-operating community theater in 2005 after he retired from his career in accounting, wanting to revive his love of theater with the free time he had.

Being observant to the happenings of his surroundings, Moran quickly saw common sense-type problems he thought he could be of use in correcting, so he became a volunteer.

After helping bolster the theater’s thin volunteer program, leaders at the time asked him to join the Board of Directors. He served one year on the board as the volunteer chair and the following term was voted as president.

While Moran was president, the theater happened to lose its executive director. As any theater worth its salt knows, the show must go on, and Moran stepped into the role with the understanding he would take over for one year.

“Sixteen years later, I’m still here,” he said. “I didn’t know auditioning for a play would turn into a whole new career. It’s the last thing I would have ever expected.”

Moran has been instrumental in the continued operation of the theater, especially though a pandemic, and bringing to life the popular children’s summer camps.

“When I talk about being of proud of the stuff that I’ve done, I am very happy with Cultural Park’s Youth Programs that have been developed under my tenure,” Moran said. “We’ve expanded the education programs. It’s become an extremely popular part of our season every year.”

Moran is also proud of the theater’s Spectacular Christmas Revue, which they put on each and every year to cultivate the holiday spirit, which he created a number of years ago.

“It’s snowballed and become an annual event,” he said.

If it’s a big production, count Moran in, as you can view cast pictures on his office wall that feature countless smiling faces.

“For me, the bigger the cast, the better,” he said. “I enjoy the camaraderie of everybody. I want that to be a part of the production, that everybody is friends with one another. The more people that are around me, the happier I’ve been.”

Moran will still be a familiar face around the theater after he’s taken his final bow, as he teaches an acting class in the fall and winter and could even direct some shows.

“I am hoping to still be involved in the theater,” he said. “Now that I’m out of the long workdays, I may be interested in (different roles at the theater). I won’t be overly involved, but I don’t intend to not see Cultural Park on a fairly regular basis, I would go crazy if I didn’t.”

Moran thanked his staff, board of directors, and those who help the theater continue to operate, many of which have been with him for the entire ride.

“There’s nothing here that I can honestly say I won’t miss,” he said. “Other than maybe dealing with this pandemic. Theater is about gathering people together and it’s one thing you cannot do in a pandemic, so the past year and a half has been tough. But I think we’re working through it now and things are getting better.”

Moran said the greatest compliment he’s ever received was from former City Manager Terry Stewart as he introduced Moran to a group to which he was speaking.

Moran recalled that Stewart, who was involved with the theater for a number of years, said the executive director was either really tuned in to the arts and performance side of the coin, or tapped into the business side, no in-between. Moran recalled Stewart saying, “Here’s Michael who understands both fluently, and knows how to separate them from each other.”

“And you do have to be able to separate the theatrical from the business end of it,” Moran said. “I’ve had such wonderful people around me, it’s not been difficult to do that. I’ve been blessed working here.”

Moran’s dedication and legacy at the theater will be celebrated on Oct. 16 with a celebration honoring his time at the theater. He was overwhelmed with the response from friends and colleagues upon his announcement to step down.

“I want to thank the community for supporting the theater and myself over these years,” he said. “What’s unique about Cultural Park and always has been is the atmosphere you feel when you walk through those front doors. You’re instantly welcomed, and we make sure your entire stay here is very enjoyable, and that’s been the trademark of Cultural Park. I’m pretty certain that’s going to continue into the future. We are a community, family, theater operation and I hope the community continues to come back and support it and anybody else sitting in my seat, they support them just as well.”

Cultural Park Theater will name an interim executive director who will take the reins Oct. 1 and continue to take applications until the role is solidified.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj