Assistant Professor, Theatre Arts
Elliott Moffitt comes from a long and varied show business and academic background. Coming from a musical family, he was a child performer in the gospel arena and was the original lead singer in the Dixie Jubiliees group. Playing many of the brass instruments, he performed in orchestras and moonlighted as lead singer and trumpeter in a number of soul bands in the South.
An athlete of some note, his original ambition was to play professional football, but a knee injury pushed him back towards music and performance. Still, "soul music was so sad." It was always about broken hearts and cheating and crying and apologizing. Who wanted to sing about that forever? Fortunately for the injured ball carrier, his academics earned him scholarships to Vanderbilt, Harvard, Duke, and North Carolina. He chose North Carolina, and there met his eventual love: theatre.
Moffitt left Chapel Hill when he was cast in a musical, Dionysus Wants You, that was produced by the Folger Shakespeare Company in Washington, DC. Eventually the production moved to New York, and was produced by Joe Papp at the famed Public Theatre. Remaining in New York on the advice of his teachers, Moffitt worked in various plays and movies while learning about the recording industry at one of the many recording studios in the city. Interestingly, he met Melvin Van Peebles while the latter was recording the cast album of his hit play, Ain't S'posed To Die A Natural Death at Advantage Sound Studios. Moffitt also sang on several albums as a background vocalist for 1970s artists such as Mama Lion and others. Several producers pursued Moffitt for an individual album, but his attraction to the theatre lured him away from what he saw firsthand as an industry filled with capricious and unscrupulous personalities.
As Moffitt began to have more success as an actor, he encountered the stereotyped thinking that he battles against today. Upon auditioning for the part of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, he was asked to "do it like you're stoned on cocaine!" Stunned by the assumption that he would know how a "coke head" would behave, he asked the questions for the first of many times to follow: "When do I get to play the part of a doctor or a businessman? Why do I have to always audition for drug dealers and ghetto thugs? Where are the real drama roles? My training is the equal of any actor or any color!" The answer he received was cold and clear; the industry was not interested in writing roles for intelligent black characters. It is presumed that there were few "trained" black actors on which to expend the effort. It was also assumed that the drug-filled ghetto experience was universally familiar to black actors.
"Somebody ought to make sure that decent parts are written for blacks, and somebody ought to train young black actors!" Even as he uttered his complaint, the knowledge that his calling had been defined flooded in his mind, along with a familiar sounding thought; "If not now, when? If not me, then who?" Since then, Moffitt has redefined himself, leaving his professional career and earning degrees in theatre at York University and North Carolina A&T, and has pursued graduate studies at several noted universities, including the University of Maryland and Towson University.
Reviews of Prof. Moffitt's recent performance in Phoenician Women directed by Prof. Bob Bartlett:
"However, just as Jocasta set the scene for a powerful performance, Oedipus's entrance toward the end of the show was also unexpectedly powerful. Jocasta and Oedipus are regal and dignified, complemented by the elegant dignity of the set and the music. Antigone seemed unsure of her lines and stumbled often, an unfortunate distraction among stronger performers."
DELL RAY SUN
"The work centers on everyone surrounding the infamous figure of Oedipus …highlights include the beautiful gold dresses worn by the chorus, and flowing robes and skillful makeup producing one spooky-looking Oedipus …Elliott Moffitt makes for a dignified Oedipus."
"Oedipus at the end was wearing a toga of some sort, but it worked for all the characters. … When Oedipus came, he was wearing a toga. He also had a great makeup job to look blind. He had a tree branch as his cane. That was a very effective picture of him."
"Mr. Moffitt's brief appearance as Oedipus was what I would have imagined Oedipus would have looked like aged: a towering man who once commanded respect as evidenced from the strong inflection of his voice. Even now he exudes an air of authority, though in reality he is rendered powerless which is demonstrated in Mr. Moffit's Oedipus with his towering frame now sinking to the floor upon more tragic news of his family. This was a darn good group of actors …"
DC THEATER REVIEWS
"I also want to add that the performance by Mr. Moffitt at the end was amazing. My comment about it being tedious at the end was no reflection on his superb performance. Too bad he couldn't have come in earlier in the play, but the story is what it is, I suppose."
SUN GAZETTE NEWSPAPERS
"Directed by Bob Bartlett and based on a translation by Carl Mueller, the play is set in Thebes around 409 B.C. Oedipus (Elliott Moffitt) has killed his father and unknowingly married his own mother, Jocasta (Cherie Weinert), who bore him two sons and two daughters. When Oedipus learned of his incest, he put out his own eyes. Oedipus appears only at the end of the play, but Moffitt portrays well the agony of someone paying dearly for his mistakes."
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