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Buffalo State Experts: Moss Brings Stage, Film Success to Classroom

Buffalo State Experts: Moss Brings Stage, Film Success to Classroom

Posted: October 2, 2017

When Aaron Moss Jr., assistant professor of theater, was growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, he was so shy he talked with his hand over his mouth.

However, the lanky young man was a serious piano student with his eye on the prestigious Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. At age 13, he auditioned for a spot in an orchestra accompanying a community production of Peacing It Together. Even though Moss had never acted before, the director asked him to read lines for the musical. To his surprise, Moss landed the lead role—and found himself conflicted. 

“I was terrified with the idea of getting up on stage and speaking,” he said.

Moss’s tentative beginnings may come as a surprise to those who know him only as the self-assured, baritone-voiced actor and educator. Since joining the Theater Department in 2014, he’s taught such courses as Scene Study and Acting for the Camera. And he’s had a storied career appearing on the stage and screen.

“Although my particular area of expertise is performance, I prepare students for all types of jobs related to the theater—writer, designer, business manager, scholarly researcher, and marketing director,” he said. “Some students use theater to complement a different field they ultimately go into.”

For instance, he said, many graduates become lawyers, social workers, and business leaders.

“Learning how to communicate with joy is a terrific skill. There is a big appetite for it,” he said. “Theater really become the ubiquitous liberal arts training for interpersonal communication.”

At the same time, he loves helping students find the magic of the stage in the Flexible and Warren Enters theaters. He’s directed such cutting-edge productions as The Doctor in Spite of Himself, The Brothers Size, and Blood at the Root, which opened September 27.

On the side, he keeps his acting chops current, doing voice-over work for audiobooks, commercials, and art installations. This year he was heard around the country as the voice for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s television commercials “Now More Than Ever!”

He also played the title role in the short documentary Through These Gates: A Tribute to John E. Brent, Buffalo’s First African-American Architect, which accompanied an exhibit of the same name at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. Since 2014, Moss has become a familiar voice at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, acting narration suits in several BPO Kids concerts including Peter & The Wolf, T’was the Night Before Christmas, and Carnival of the Animals.

Moss’s career, however, came close to never happening. Back in 1998, he nearly turned down that role he was offered in Peacing It Together. Then his mother encouraged him to step outside his comfort zone and onto the stage. Good thing he listened to her.

Moss’s pivotal performance caught the attention of Kyle Sécor, who then starred on the NBC show Homicide: Life on the Streets. Sécor was giving a master class to the theater troupe; he worked on Moss’s scenes repeatedly.

“I thought I must have been really bad because he kept working with me,” Moss said with a smile.

As it turned out, Sécor was so impressed with the young actor that he invited Moss to play a teen drug dealer in an episode of Homicide. A year later Moss appeared in the Emmy award-winning HBO mini-series The Corner.

Those experiences prompted Moss to pursue acting as a career. He earned a master of fine arts in acting from the Yale School of Drama and starred in several Shakespearean plays (for which he won a Connecticut Critics Circle Award), as well as Oscar Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman with Tony nominees Charles S. Dutton and Stephen McKinley Henderson at the Yale Repertory Theatre. He also landed bit parts in the acclaimed HBO series The Wire and the 2013 movie American Hustle.

“I’ve had the experiences,” he said, “that allowed me to make a living and create a rich and empirical knowledge to share with my students.”

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