Tedde Morre strongly rooted In Canadian theatre
By Cece M. Scott
Granddaughter of the theatrical icon, Dora Mavor Moore, Tedde Moore has spent much of her life in, and around, the acting world. “I first appeared on stage on the CBC’s children’s show, Travelin’ Time, when I was 13 years old,” says Moore. “I’d been around the theatre since I was two years old, so acting was like old hat to me. I was hilariously casual about it and failed to learn my lines, which wasn’t good, because it was live-to-tape. The cameramen knew that as my eyes got wider and wider that there would be no more coming from me – that I’d dried up, with nothing more to say. It took me quite awhile to understand that I had to work at it.”
Moore’s grandmother was the Canadian pioneer of live theatre, and for whom the annual Canadian live theatre awards are named – the Dora Awards. She greatly influenced her granddaughter with words of wisdom. “Her attitude towards human kind, life and death, were also a big influence on me,” says Moore. “She was a remarkable woman.”
Tall and slim, Moore’s grey hair is swept back with a barrette, and she looks very elegant dressed in black, when she answers the door of her 1883, 450-square-foot worker’s cottage in Parkdale. Her initial demeanour is somewhat reticent, but ten minutes into the interview Moore’s cool deportment implodes into a hearty laugh, which instantly changes the dynamics of the conversation.
Moore’s career encompasses a wide body of work in theatre, film and television. She won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Female Performance, in The Walls of Africa. She also won the Canadian Film Award for Best Supporting Actress, in Second Wind. During her 50-year career, the experience that resonates the most with her is the time that she spent acting in Stratford. “I was 22 at the time,” she says. “It was all wonderful, because I was just starting out. When you start at the top, you don’t realize that the whole of your life won’t be this wonderful. You have no frame of reference. It was a time never to be created again.”
Playing Juliet to Christopher Walken’s Romeo, was Moore’s favourite role at Stratford. She talks fondly of her character in The Castle, her role in the Shaw play, Man and Superman (performed in Ottawa), as well as her last major, theatrical role in The Walls of Africa. “I was working with some remarkable people, including actor/director, Layne Coleman,” says Moore. “Our acting techniques were so different. I needed everything to be rehearsed and organized. Layne was completely the opposite – very free spirited. He believed in doing what he felt, a style that I was allergic to.”
The role that Moore is most famous for, is that of the beloved Miss Shields in the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, for which she garnered a Genie nomination. The movie, hugely popular in the States as well, has achieved a cult following. Moore attends some of the events, and is buoyed by the number of people who say that they became a teacher because of her. At the time of filming, Moore was eight months pregnant. Being a single, pregnant woman in a movie that is set in the 1940s would not have been acceptable. “The director, Bob Clark, told me not to worry about it – I could sit behind a desk,” says Moore. “But I had never been in an MGM movie, and I was not about to do that.” Instead, Moore padded herself to give the allusion of chubbiness, a state that she thoroughly enjoyed.
In 2001, Moore was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), which, along with arthritis, has affected her life on many levels. She can no longer drive or walk far, and finds it difficult to plan ahead. However, she was most impacted by the fact that she had to give up acting and teaching – the two careers that she dearly loved. “I am a whore for acting,” says Moore with a jovial laugh. “But the MS, which affects the nerves, made it extremely difficult to do all the things that I was called upon to do. Giving up both my acting and teaching careers was the biggest challenge I have ever had to face. I always thought that when I got older in life, I could focus on my acting, and now I can’t. It has been awful.”
Another hurdle that Moore has successfully climbed, is her dedication to becoming sober. She describes her former life as haphazard. With the assistance of a good therapist, she now feels happier and more present. “I could always drink everyone under the table. And then, it always seemed like a dandy idea to get some marijuana,” says Moore. “It is the irony of my life that now that I’ve stopped smoking weed, it has become legal.”
Under the care of a naturopath and acupuncturist, she’s also experienced relief from the symptoms related to arthritis and inflammation. Moore says that getting clean and sober was the best thing that she ever did.
“The idea of doing things on the edge has always appealed to me.” – Tedde Moore
Albeit physical restrictions, Moore is surrounded by friends and family. She describes her daughter Zoe, 45, as an extraordinary woman. Suzanna, 39, is a high school science and math teacher, as well as the manager of the school’s football team. Her son, Noah, 35, is a music producer and Drake’s creative partner. Moore accepted responsibility for a young girl named Chaunce at the age of three, and she is very much a part of their family. Moore also has five grandchildren.
Moore was with filmmaker, Donald Shebib, for 40 years, and he is the father of Suzanna and Noah. While they no longer live together, Moore is still very fond of him and calls him her life partner. Now, at the age of 73, Moore lives on her own in her tiny cottage in Toronto.
“I was gifted with an extraordinary amount of privilege, including my creativity, the period of life that I lived in, the world of theatre – the culmination of all things,” says Moore. “It has been a rich, extraordinary time to be alive. I have been deeply, and extraordinarily, loved, which is a gift not everyone enjoys.”