Dayton arts community mourns loss of William ‘Kip’ Moore

William “Kip” Moore, one of the most joyful and magnetic actors to appear on a Miami Valley stage, died Saturday, April 2 after battling colon cancer. He was 58.

Over the past 20 years, I witnessed Moore’s consistent excellence in a variety of roles – Harlem pianist, vengeful gangster, carefree hippie, chatty retiree, flashy wizard, and a colorful crustacean among many others – that suited his charming professional pedigree. Inspired in his youth by influential Black musicals of the 1970s such as “The Wiz” and “Ain’t Misbehavin,’” he was blessed with a strikingly confident stage presence fueling his skillful ability to interpret characters with earthy realism, expressive comedy and earnest vulnerability.

Credit: ART FABIAN

Credit: ART FABIAN

His participation in two productions of the turn of the century musical “Ragtime” particularly captured his artistic panache. In 2014 with Fairfield Summer Theatre, he brought depth and dignity to his portrayal of icon Booker T. Washington. Three years later at the Dayton Playhouse, where he served as a board member, he winningly rose to leading man status, bringing sharp sophistication, powerful vocals and dynamic emotion to his portrayal of ill-fated Coalhouse Walker Jr.

“A gaping hole has been left in our world as Kip Moore passed from this life to life eternal,” said Brian Sharp, Playhouse board chairman emeritus who portrayed Grandfather in “Ragtime.” “As a fellow actor, it was wonderful to share the stage with Kip, who was always supportive and upbeat. Kip had a beautiful voice but much more than that was his love and acceptance of others. To be around Kip was to experience a contagious laugh and heartfelt hugs. As a board member, he worked to ensure we were operating in the best way possible and focused appropriately on diversity and inclusion. Kip will be missed by all who knew him.”

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“‘Ragtime’ was a pivotal moment in time for me, but Kip made it unforgettable,” said Tia Seay, who portrayed Coalhouse’s girlfriend Sarah. “Whether we were laughing in the wings trying our hardest to push the Model T on stage or we were making each other laugh as we danced across the stage, ‘Ragtime’ solidified our bond. Whenever I hear ‘Sarah Brown Eyes’ I will be dancing with my friend again.”

Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, Moore delivered another outstanding performance at the Playhouse. He was a delightful Padre in “Man of La Mancha,” filling the conversational beauty of “I’m Only Thinking of Him” with inquisitive humor and offering a poignant rendition of “To Each His Dulcinea.”

Credit: ART FABIAN

Credit: ART FABIAN

“I looked through my tattered script and notes and I found a note I had given to Kip,” explained director Dawn Roth Smith. “It just said: ‘The change should be like a switch has been turned on, when your music cue happens.’ It was, of course, a note for his prisoner’s character to become the Padre. I never had to give that note again. Working with Kip was always like that. He trusted you to guide him, and he would take it from there. Off stage, his soul-mending hugs and support were something we all treasured and will all miss. His desire to help the Playhouse become a more diverse community will forever be what guides me in future decisions about directing. It is a long road, but I’ll keep leading that path until we reach that day.”

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Moore was a highly regarded actor, but he also directed numerous shows across the Dayton region. In particular, his staging of Desireé York’s Harlem Renaissance-themed drama “The Puppeteer,” heightened with projections to add cultural flair, was a highlight of the 2017 Dayton Playhouse FutureFest. His directorial credits included “Almost, Maine” at Middletown Lyric Theatre, where he served as a board member, and “Dreamgirls” at Beavercreek Community Theatre.

“We at BCT are heartbroken to hear of the passing of such a wonderful man,” said Doug Lloyd, Beavercreek Community Theatre board president. “Kip was considered a part of the BCT family. To know Kip was to love him. To say he was kind, gentle, loving and talented is an understatement. He greeted everyone with an amazing smile and hug. He will be greatly missed and never forgotten.”

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

Moore was a 1981 Middletown High School graduate who earned his bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Cincinnati. After working at Universal Studios in California, he returned to Middletown. In addition to working at the Middletown Journal, he served as program director at Middletown Senior Citizens Center, was elected to the Middletown City Council, and served as programming director at the Salvation Army Dayton Kroc Center.

He was preceded in death by his father, William Moore, and his mother, Geraldine Bryant.

Moore’s funeral will be held Tuesday, April 12 at noon at the Sorg Opera House, 63 S. Main St., Middletown. Pastor Jamey L. Colts of New Era Baptist Church will officiate. Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. until noon. Moore will be buried at Woodside Cemetery.

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“Kip was probably one of the most loving and amazing human beings I had ever met in my life,” said Tina McPhearson, Playhouse board vice-chairperson. “He always had a smile and a hug and was such a wonderful Christian man. I just think God missed him so much he wanted him back where he belonged. We were all blessed for having known him in this life.”

Moore was slated to return to the Playhouse next season to direct the musical “Once on This Island,” a tale of a close-knit Caribbean community finding strength in storytelling. Without a doubt, I am confident his legacy will endure because we are here to tell his story.

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