Adversity Hits, But Thingamajig Theatre’s Summer Season Doesn’t Miss a Beat
Author’s note: This article is based on a July 4, 2017 interview with Tim and Laura Moore, just twelve days after Tim was unexpectedly diagnosed with colon cancer. Laura was nursing eight day-old Lachlan during our interview.
This isn’t theater. It’s real life. But there’s a theater — Thingamajig Theatre Company at Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts — involved. The Artistic Director (Tim Moore) and Executive Director (wife Laura Moore) are involved, and there is high drama, so allow me to set the scene.
It’s Thursday, June 22, the day before opening night for Hairspray – the second of four Thingamajig musicals to run in rep through August. The PSCA website was void of Hairspray photos, so I texted Tim if he would like me to take photos at the final run-through that evening. That wasn’t necessary, Tim texted back, and then added:
“Today’s been a really hard day. I can’t discuss many details but I’ll share shortly.”
Tim’s cryptic text settled into my thoughts and my imagination took off in all the wrong directions. The next night at Hairspray opening, there were no Tim or Laura at the champagne reception. I snooped around until finally I was told that Tim had been diagnosed with cancer the day before. Then I experienced the incredible opening night of Hairspray.
I heard that Tim was going to Denver for surgery. He and Laura agreed to an interview prior to his departure as a way to inform the public. Our July 4 interview began with “How are you doing? How are you processing this? This community cares about you and the theater. We want to know what is going on. We haven’t heard from you. Of course, you have every right to be private about this…”
Tim: It wasn’t an issue of privacy, but I wanted to keep the focus on the work, on the season, and on the Center. I went in for a CT scan on Thursday. Also got a flat (tire). Then the show’s sound designer bailed. We’re opening tomorrow. Already, not a good day.
Then I got a call from my doctor. “Hey, you got cancer.” Well, I guess I’m not going to run the microphones tomorrow for the sound guy…. odds are I have to go into surgery…
I felt the actors should know about it on Thursday night after their final run-through. Director Michael Walker gave them the news.
As we found out more about the diagnosis, and as Laura (pregnant with their second child) went further beyond her expected due date, we stayed up that night to put pieces together.
Laura: At 3am the next morning, we called Laine Wong, our lighting designer, and she stepped into the position of production manager.
Tim: Laine is great. She wanted to do it for a couple of reasons. One, she’s close to us. She understands theater frontwards and backwards. I feel totally comfortable handing this over to her.
Laura: 3am in the morning. Tim was sleeping. I asked Dan (Morrison) to take over the kids’ camp. He agreed. We have to get all of our people lined up. The good thing is that our theater is already like a family. Laine stepped up. She has a high standard, and she did it as a friend. The next day, our choreographer (Paul Thiemann) was on a ladder helping Laine fix the speakers. Michael our director mopped the stage.
Tim: Friday morning we had a Company meeting to address all the “stuff”. Our theater is run like a family business. You can be an actor, but these actors will always step up beyond the scope of acting. Every one pitches in. So when I got my diagnosis, everyone stepped up and we didn’t miss a beat. Let’s just do this.
Laura: The timing was terrible, but with the baby coming, we already had a couple of extra people in place. Neither Tim nor I were in a show or directing, so we already had some family time planned. In that respect the timing was good.
(On Friday night, Hairspray opened, and on Sunday night, Laura went into labor and gave birth 6:45am Monday morning, June 26, to son Lachlan – Finlay’s brother.)
Tim: Since that Thursday, I’ve only been in the theater maybe twice. I just didn’t want it (my cancer diagnosis and impending surgery) to be a distraction.
I haven’t said anything publicly in an email… then once it had gotten around, I thought I should write an email to clarify, but, shoot, I didn’t know what to clarify. I won’t know a whole lot until after my surgery. I leave for Denver tomorrow for surgery on Thursday, (July 6) at noon. Five to ten days in the hospital post-op, then I’ll stay at my parents house. I’m hoping to get back to Pagosa for the (July 25) Broadway Gala.
Laura: A Friend of Thingamajig Theatre donated miles so that Tim could fly to Denver, and I and the boys will be driving up after he’s discharged from the hospital.
I offered that the theater has been a good distraction from this.
Tim: Yeah. Even though I’ve been in the building only a couple of days, I’m still connected to it every day. Laine and I talk multiple times each day. She’s very capable.
I planned to take time for baby leave, now I’m getting my colectomy leave.
So it’s a total colectomy. My whole large intestine, from the end of the small intestine, everything will come out. A lot more people have this procedure than you would think. But still, at 43 years old, it’s a shock. Especially when I just finished God of Carnage, and my character says, “…the last 15 years left before stroke or cancer gets you…” and (laughing) six weeks later I get the cancer diagnosis. I mean, son of a…
People ask me, how did I discover it? When we started God of Carnage, I had really bad stomach cramps. It felt like the cramps I had in my twenties when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s. The pain got so bad I went to the emergency room. They did a CT scan and said it was a flare up. Eventually after more pain and a colonoscopy, the cancer diagnosis was confirmed.
Tim continued: People who were going to leave are now asking to stick around until the end of August to help us out. But they need to be paid. The Thingamajig Friends and patrons have been amazing in making sure the season is on track. They ask “What can we do?” and then they follow through and do it.
I asked Tim and Laura that same question – what can we do?
Laura: Buy a ticket to a show, or the July 25 Broadway Gala Fundraiser. Tell people about the our wonderful theater. Write letters to the editor. Donate to the Artist House (Thingamajig’s affordable housing solution for 24 actors and crew during the summer season). Volunteer at the theater.
Tim (joking): Write a check to the theater, for any amount, cash to me.
Laura: We need to take care of the theater. The theater is our other baby. And when we take care of the theater, we’re taking care of our theater family.
I ended our interview with: “Tim, did you know that at the Talk Back on opening night of Hairspray, actor Marcus Desion responded to a question about how the cast was bonding. He said, ‘Yesterday we got some bad news, and those of us in the company car pulled over and prayed.’”
Tim: I didn’t know that. I like that kid.
Update Number One
Tim had surgery on July 6. It’s been difficult for him, including infections, incredible pain and the accompanying medications. Tim was discharged on July 12 to recuperate at his parents’ Denver home. Laura, the boys, and Robin Brobst – our communication link and Laura’s invaluable helper and friend – drove to Denver.
On July 18, Laura spent the night in the ER with Tim and they determined he had another infection. He checked in to the hospital and was given heavy doses of antibiotics.
On July 20, Robin sent the following email: “Tim is going back into surgery tomorrow. They have determined that something wasn’t closed correctly during the first surgery and that is what is causing the infection. Prayers again!”
Then the next day: “Tim Update! Out of the surgery and doing great. He has a long road ahead of him but he is so happy right now. We texted back and forth tonight and he was very funny and also very appreciative of all the love and support that he is getting from everyone!”
Update Number Two
Tim wrote the following last night (July 24) for this article:
“I just got out of the hospital (again) yesterday and truthfully it feels like I’ve been in a hospital bed all month. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to be back at my folk’s house with family.
“When I originally scheduled my surgery, I had anticipated being back for [tonight’s] Broadway Gala, but I now realize how fragile my body is right now. I suspect I’ll be in recovery for all the various things – whether it’s the cancer or colectomy – through September. It’s an extremely slow healing process, with so much that can go wrong (as I recently experienced) that I want to be as cautious and deliberate as possible when it comes to the healing.
“As for the cancer, they tested over 100,000 surrounding lymph nodes and it looks like I’m now cancer-free, but still need to confirm this with an oncologist. So although I feel confident, I won’t know for sure until that doc clears me.
“The show must go on.”
Tim’s July 24 update ended with this: “I am (currently) starting to select the 2017-2018 Fall/Winter Season so we will go on – I guarantee that much – and both Laura and I will be back in Pagosa, where we feel at home, as soon as possible. I don’t know when the season will be finalized but we will announce it to season ticket holders/press asap and then to the general public afterwards.”
As those of you who have attended the shows already know, the season has flourished in spite of Tim and Laura’s extended absence. Tim put the right professional cast and crew in place last spring, and they are passionate and caring. The Friends of the Theatre, also passionate and caring, have stepped up as volunteers to fill the void the best they can, and have done so seamlessly.
In November, 2010, I interviewed Tim and Laura about their vision of bringing professional theater to Pagosa; you can read that 2010 interview here.
To this day, Thingamajig Theatre Company and the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts are my favorite ‘Thing’ about Pagosa. I’m not alone. The Theatre and Center have enriched our cultural lives in immeasurable ways, and are important economic drivers for Pagosa.
Thingamajig Theatre Company endures. Thanks, Tim and Laura, for all you have brought to our community. We love you and will see you soon.