After decades of live performances, Moe Harrington, 50, still loves to make something out of nothing. “You’re given something on a flat page with lines and you turn it into this living, breathing, palpable thing and that totally turns me on,” she said.
One recent role even required Harrington to get naked and smoke on stage as Mrs. Robinson in the Covey Theatre Company’s version of “The Graduate.” “I was more nervous about smoking on stage and making it look natural,” she said. “I mean we all get naked, but I had never smoked before in my life.”
But Harrington said she was also concerned about her 14-year-old daughter being OK with her taking on such a provocative role. “When I asked her how she would feel about people’s reaction to the nude scene in ‘The Graduate,’ she said, ‘Mom, if people don’t know the difference between my mother and a character on stage, that’s not my problem, it’s theirs’,” Harrington said.
In March, Harrington takes on another first — she will join her husband, Michael O’Neill, on stage in “Reaching for Marsby” by Jeff Kramer.
In addition to acting, Harrington is the associate development director at The Q Center, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth facility run by AIDS Community Resources.
For more than 20 years, Harrington has been a part of the fight against HIV and AIDS, while working to overcome the inequalities that exist for those who experience discrimination and abuse. The center provides a safe, creative, nurturing environment in Central New York, she said. “We’re losing kids at a rapid rate,” Harrington added. “They are four times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual kids, 98 percent of them have been verbally abused, 67 percent of them have been physically attacked and 46 percent of the kids living on the street right now (and are homeless) identify as gay.”
Part of her responsibilities include fund-raising efforts and special performances. “When I look at the things I want for my own daughter, to be happy, to be successful, to find love — if my daughter were gay, the things that I would want for her would not be any different,” Harrington said. “There should be no difference. And there seems to be.”
For her, both roles — actress and development director — are about making a meaningful connection that impacts her audience. “Out of that moment on stage, comes all of these other amazing things,” she said. “The connections that I make with people, the connections that I make with agencies, my work, how I raise my child, how we live as a family — it’s all connected.”