Courtney Moors has never been afraid to take risks. She moved to New York early in her career even though she’d never been there. Last year she moved to Atlanta on a hunch and the advice of colleagues. So far, so good.
This month, Moors is the sole actor in Atlanta Theatre Club’s Grounded (through August 17 at 7 Stages). The central character — called simply The Pilot — has been a fighter pilot whose profession is her entire identity. An unexpected pregnancy changes the course of her life, and her next assignment is far from the cockpit.
Moors, 32, didn’t see the 2015 off-Broadway version of Grounded (featuring Anne Hathaway, with Julie Taymor directing), and didn’t know much about the drone program that figures into its plot. But she was intrigued. “You are seeing this through the eyes of a woman warrior — and a mother — who is by day being a part of kill missions and at night expected to be a wife and raise a young girl. How does she reconcile those two worlds?”
The answer? Not terribly well.
Atlanta Theatre Club, founded in spring 2018 by artistic director Rebeca Robles, is a female-driven company. Grounded, which Robles directs, is the first time Moors has been part of an all-female team. It’s been a joy, she says. “These are all smart, funny ladies. I feel right at home, and there’s a great sense of camaraderie and community.”
Moors was born in Brantford, Ontario, and grew up in nearby Cambridge (population: 130,000). Her parents didn’t act but did attend theater performances occasionally and took her to see a traveling production of West Side Story when she was nine.
“It opened my eyes and really stuck with me,” Moors says. A year later, the family moved to Tampa, and Moors became involved in middle- and high-school drama programs. She earned a B.F.A. in theater from the University of Central Florida and soon apprenticed at Actors Theatre of Louisville, first appearing in its annual production of Dracula.
In 2010, she moved to New York, which was everything she imagined. “It was incredible,” Moors says. “I will never forget the first minute I came up from the subway and emerged in Manhattan. I had never seen anything in my life like it.” She worked in the city and regionally and founded Barefoot Shakespeare Company in 2012. The seven-year-old company is primarily known for doing Shakespeare outdoors.
After seven-plus years in New York, Moors knew it was time to move on. “I felt like I had accomplished so much in New York, and I loved it, but I had reached my threshold. It was wearing on me. I was excited about going to a place where there was still work — and I could have a backyard. Atlanta seemed like a good fit.”
She appeared in Shakespeare Kennesaw’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in June 2018 and last fall played the title character in Synchronicity Theatre’s Nell Gwynn. Nell Gwynn finally paired her with director Richard Garner, who she’d auditioned in New York while he led Georgia Shakespeare.
Moors also is part of Working Title Playwrights’ acting ensemble and occasionally teaches elementary-, middle- and high-schoolers as part of the Alliance Theatre Institute.
She admits it’s taken her some time to find the balance between her professional world and the personal life she wanted to create, but she feels she’s there now. “The move to Atlanta has allowed me to find that,” she says. “I think I have leaned into being flexible with all these moves — and the risks have now paid off.”