The Boulder History Museum’s “Conversations with Extraordinary People” series at Chautauqua never seems to run short of talent; the upcoming installment featuring actor/director/writer William Mooney is evidence to that fact. A 13-year veteran of the wildly popular daytime soap opera All My Children (where he earned two Emmy nominations), Mooney’s resume includes directing dozens of plays and musicals in New York and throughout the country and writing myriad award-winning books and plays. He’s been the stage director of the Summer Opera Festival at the University of Colorado for the last eight seasons as well. A latter-day renascence man, Mooney peels back the curtain on acting on-screen, writing for a living and
living in Boulder.
French Davis: After such an interesting career on Broadway and on TV, what led you back to Colorado and CU?
Bill Mooney: CU hired me for eight seasons to direct their summer musicals and operettas starting in the middle ‘90s. My wife, Valorie, and I had met here. She was working on her master’s degree at the College of Music, and we were in several musicals together. She went on to have a fine career in Europe singing in opera houses in Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Germany. She then became a professor of music at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and established their opera program. She had accompanied me to Boulder each summer, so after she retired from Rutgers we decided to move here permanently. As a national storyteller, I could live any place that was close to a major airport. Boulder is a wonderful place and we are very happy here.
FD: You’ve directed dozens of operas and acted on stage and on screen. You’re a professional storyteller and writer. If you had to whittle it down, what moves you the most?
BM: My biggest love is what I am doing at the present, whether it is writing or storytelling. I have no desire to direct anymore and little desire to be in plays. I enjoy doing my own thing. Currently, I am writing the tales of my life so that my grandkids can read about their Grannydaddy’s hopes, dreams, desires and disasters (if they so desire). For years as a storyteller, I counseled adults to write down their own stories for their grandkids, telling them that when they died their stories died with them. Now I’m taking my own advice.
FD: How do you think things have changed in entertainment industry in the last two decades? What still remains
BM: Actors still have to learn lines and speak distinctly. Writers still try to write well and interestingly. Musicians still have to become experts on their instruments. Artists still hold brushes in their hands.
FD: You’ve done some commissioned work as a writer. How does that process differ from when you’re writing for yourself?
BM: You have to tell their story instead of your own. Sometimes it works out really well, sometimes not so well. It always depends on their staying out of the way. But that’s sometimes difficult for those commissioning their own story. But you always do the best you can, given the circumstances. What’s the old expression? You keep throwing mud at the wall and hope that some of it will stick.
FD: What was it like working on a daytime soap like All My Children? What were some of the biggest lessons you took away from that experience?
BM: To begin with: You cannot lie in front of a camera. The camera will pick up insincerity every time. Second: the words you have to say on a soap opera may not be Shakespeare’s, but the emotions you play with are the same as if you were portraying Hamlet.