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Piedmont Players Theatre Removes Artistic Director Mid-Season, Raising Questions

Allegations of homophobia surround sudden firing

Bradley Moore sits in a large crowd of fellow theatre performers, cast and crew
Bradley Moore (sitting in chair) with fellow thespians of Piedmont Players Theatre. (Photo by Tim Coffey)

Opening night should be an exciting moment for any theatrical production — a time to celebrate weeks, if not months, of work and collaboration. For the cast and crew of the Salisbury-based Piedmont Players Theatre’s production of POTUS on Jan. 26, however, opening night and the run that was scheduled to follow were canceled, serving only as a reminder of what could have been. 

That’s because just nine days earlier, the nonprofit theatre company’s board of governors announced the removal of artistic director Bradley Moore, leaving not only POTUS without a director, but two other upcoming shows: Mean Girls Jr. and May We All. Cast and crew for POTUS demanded that Moore be allowed to stay on for the weekend run, at least, but were told that wouldn’t happen, so the show was canceled. 

The announcement surprised those in Salisbury’s creative scene, as Moore had earned a reputation for producing high-quality theatre and bringing new ideas onto Piedmont Players Theatre (PPT) stages, including the After Dark series that POTUS was a part of. 

On Jan. 17, the PPT Board of Governors publicly announced its decision in a statement that read, “It is with heavy hearts, but renewed vision for the future, that we publicly announce our Artistic Director, Bradley Moore, is no longer employed with our organization. We truly appreciate his contributions to our beloved theatre and wish him the best in future endeavors.” 

The post went on to say, “We appreciate your continued support through this transition as the mission of PPT could not be accomplished without YOU, the community.”

Moore said the announcement took him by surprise at a time when he felt the company was building momentum.

“I feel like we were moving in such a great direction,” he told Queen City Nerve. “We were doing these seasons that had shows for everybody. We were branching out and trying to bring in younger patrons, but at the same time, also trying to keep the loyal Piedmont Players patrons happy.” 

Questions of inclusion and backlash

The decision to let Moore go came in the middle of the theatre’s season and on the cusp of the company’s 30th anniversary, generating speculation and controversy around why he was removed from his role. Many claimed the board made the decision in response to Moore’s inclusion of LGBTQ-related content in PPT’s latest season. 

Allegations that Moore was removed for his emphasis on inclusivity, a backlash from some board members who harbor homophobic beliefs, have inflamed tensions between the board and the volunteers who put on shows at PPT. 

Daniel Keith, stage manager for POTUS, told Queen City Nerve, “The Board had kind of had issues with things already … just the diversity of everything. They always wanted to question the shows, why Bradley made the choices he made, from a diverse standpoint.” 

A cast in costume onstage
The cast of ‘Legally Blonde,” a Piedmont Players Theatre production from summer 2022. (Photo by Tim Coffey)

All of PPT’s productions, including those like Rent and Kinky Boots that included LGBTQ+ content, had to be approved by the PPT Board of Governors. Yet there had been some recent tensions between board members and Moore, who in a Salisbury Post article about the firing referred to the “mental beatdowns, lies and deception” he had experienced in his dealings with the board. 

In talking with Queen City Nerve, Moore recalled that the tensions began in the summer of 2023. 

“I felt like everything like I was doing just became a fight,” he said. “There was definitely a black cloud over my head for a while. It was upsetting. I felt like our successes were never celebrated. I felt like the board led with negativity all the time.”

Keith pointed to a specific occurrence in which one board member pulled their production partner status from the upcoming March run of May We All after learning that Salisbury Pride had been allowed to set up a table in the lobby during intermission for the company’s run of Rent in October 2023. 

In response to these allegations, the board released another statement on Facebook on Jan. 20 that read, “We understand that you are seeking additional answers regarding the recent termination of Bradley Moore. Confidentiality prevents us from sharing the details of Mr. Moore’s dismissal which protects not only PPT as an organization, but Mr. Moore himself. 

“What we can say is this: The decision was not made in haste and was not an easy one for any member of the Board,” the statement continued. “While we cannot discuss the details of Mr. Moore’s parting from PPT, we can assure you all the decision had nothing to do with creative differences or sexual orientation as some people online have suggested. PPT is and always will be very supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, an inclusive space, and will not tolerate discrimination of ANY kind.”

Though the post was meant to give the community some clarity regarding Moore’s termination, it has only created more confusion, as did a meeting the board called with the cast and crews of May We All and POTUS on Jan. 22. 

A cast of actors poses on stage
Bradley Moore poses with the cast of Piedmont Player Theatre’s since-canceled ‘POTUS.’ (Photo by Caroline Forrester)

Lori Van Wallendael, a POTUS cast member and former PPT board member, recalled that the meeting created more questions than answers. 

“The Board finally did come out and say … ‘No, no, no, [the cause for Moore’s termination] wasn’t anything horrible or criminal or immoral or anything like that,’ which left us then with the question of, well if it wasn’t…why was no consideration, no plan made, for the people involved in those current shows? It felt like we had been highly disrespected.” 

In response to Moore’s surprise termination, POTUS cast member Caroline Forrester created a petition titled “Reinstate PPT’s Artistic Director,” garnering more than 830 signatures in its first two weeks. 

On the petition site, signers explained that some creatives would commute up to an hour to Salisbury from Charlotte and surrounding towns to participate in PPT’s productions specifically because they enjoyed working with Moore. Others admitted they had never met Moore but knew the quality of shows he had helped produce for the company during his two-year tenure.

“Bradley Moore has led PPT with such love, thoughtfulness, and grace for two years. In my time with him, he has taken the chance on not only me, but many other aspiring performers who are trying to grow their talent and share it with their community,” wrote Caroline Monroe, who has performed in multiple PPT productions in the past. 

“Bradley has not only created outstanding SOLD OUT shows, but a close knit family environment that stretches beyond the walls of the theater,” Monroe continued. “This decision is not only a shock to the community but also to those who are currently cast in the shows he was scheduled to direct. The lack of communication given to us other than from a public post has left many confused, frustrated, and heart broken. The PPT family is not complete without OUR artistic director, and his reinstatement is likely the only way things will continue the way they have been.”

In speaking with Queen City Nerve, Moore said he’s been overwhelmed by the community support since the announcement. 

“This past week has been crazy,” he said. “I’ve never felt so much support and love in my entire life. Like, it kind of at moments feels like I’m in a movie…But I think it just shows that this community and the arts community of the Charlotte area was ready for something like this.”

A pattern of controversial firings

Van Wallendael, who was a board member when former director Reid Leonard was let go from PPT in 2020, recalled how that farewell was handled differently. 

“The whole process was handled so differently in that case,” she said. “We did not fire that director. We asked him to retire. We wanted it to be a friendly parting of ways.” 

She described how the theatre planned to not only let him finish the productions he was directing at the time but to celebrate him at the end of the season, though neither thing happened because of the onset of COVID-19. 

A letter from Leonard himself, published by the Salisbury Post months after he had left PPT, painted a different picture, however. In the letter, he insisted that he was fired without warning following one of the best personnel reviews he had received in his career. 

“I was not thinking of retiring, had no wish to retire and thought I still had many things to contribute to this community,” he wrote, adding that his offer to help with the transition process was denied by the board. 

Considering this precedent, some are left wondering how the Piedmont Players Board of Governors will reestablish trust with a new artistic director and the theatre’s community. 

Keith was taken aback at the way the cast and crew of POTUS were notified on short notice that they no longer had a director. 

“It happened within a 24-hour period. As the stage manager, I was second-in-command for that show and I did not know of his firing until 2-3 o’clock the next day. And the only reason I knew was because [Caroline Forrester] called me.”

Keith alleged that the board then requested a production meeting with him in order to gauge what the reaction of the cast and crew might be, to which he responded, “You took away a lot of people’s home and connection.” 

Learn more: Charlotte Theatre Scene Faces Up To Adversity and Diversity in Dual Crisis

New members to the Piedmont Players Theatre community also told Queen City Nerve they are left feeling unsure about the future there. May We All cast member Angela Gordon described how seeing Moore’s work at Piedmont Players convinced her to audition for the production. 

“I had seen several of my friends doing shows with Bradley … and I knew immediately when I went and saw [Rent] that I had to work with him specifically,” she explained. 

But the excitement around being at PPT faded quickly after news of Moore’s removal broke. 

“I feel like the Board doesn’t appreciate or acknowledge the people who are taking their time, spending their money, driving an hour to go to rehearsals,” she said. “I no longer feel welcome.”

In response to inquiries for an interview with Queen City Nerve, the Board of Governors sent the identical statement it had posted to its Facebook page on Jan. 20. 

The question now is, how will the Piedmont Players move on after this? The company plans to move forward with its production of Mean Girls Jr., delaying opening night from Feb. 2 to Feb. 9 due to “scheduling needs.” 

Many performers and creatives in the area feel the PPT Board of Governors must deeply reconsider how to meet the needs of their community — both longtime members and newcomers. 

“The theatre, regardless of what happens, will try to move forward,” said Forrester. “But I think this is a devastating loss … They will get hit hard and I don’t know how they will recover.”

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  1. If Bradley and his acting troupe want to pack up and open up another theater then by all means go for it. I think it would be a more successful outcome than these followers who all drank the cool aid trying to get him back in PPT…

    If he can’t come back then fine… That’s how a board works… and NC is a Right to hire, Right to fire state. Wether people like it or not someone can get let go at any moment and not be given reason…

    I would also like to point out the fact that nowhere in this article does it say that anyone ever tried to get the other side of the story… this is a very one sided article… do better

    1. Here is a direct quote from the article where we attempted to get the other side of the story:

      “In response to inquiries for an interview with Queen City Nerve, the Board of Governors sent the identical statement it had posted to its Facebook page on Jan. 20.”

    2. Thank you Anonymous! I was beginning to think I was the only remaining rational human on earth! I have publicly offered to give the other side of the story. My email is below, if QC Nerve has any interest in a fair story, don’t hesitate to let me know.

  2. What his sycophants are neglecting to mention is that the only shows that sold out weren’t selected by Bradley Moore (The Sound of Music selected by Tom Hollis) or weren’t directed by Bradley Moore (The Lion King, Jr. directed by Titus Quinn). What also wasn’t mentioned was that he consistently ignored the budget set by the Board (that he had to agree to), and that he would do what he wanted without the Board’s support or approval and then would give a flippant apology if any at all. Caroline Forrester is living in a fantasy world when it comes to Bradley Moore. He didn’t care about inclusivity, he cared about exclusivity. His core group of “friends” were cast in roles without auditioning. He would literally ask his followers what role they wanted months in advance and proceed to give it to them without ever considering anyone else, even if they were far more qualified. He is a bully and would make it very clear when he didn’t like someone. As an executive director, you are supposed to make the volunteers feel welcomed and appreciated. He did not do that. If you didn’t pander to him, the sun didn’t shine on you. He’s going to go to another local theater and do the same thing. Enjoy.

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