Leora Morris and Moya O’Connell team up for Toronto production of The Sound Inside  

Aidan Correia & Moya O’Connell in The Sound Inside, a Coal Mine Theatre production. Photo by Tim Leyes.

One of the most significant benefits that frequently emerges from teaching or studying in the Theatre and Film department is the cultivation of meaningful industry connections. This month sees two of our community members working on a production together in Toronto! Assistant Professor, Directing and Acting, Leora Morris directs MFA alum Moya O’Connell in The Sound Inside by Adam Rapp, on now until May 28 at The Coal Mine Theatre. In between a busy rehearsal schedule, Leora and Moya sat down to chat with us about the process and the play.  

Tell us a bit about how you know each other and how you came to work on this project together 

Moya: Well, I know Leora because I did an MFA in Directing at UBC during the pandemic, and Leora was my thesis advisor. I just fell easily in love with her as an artist! 

Leora: I was reading this play that The Coal Mine Theatre had sent me and the first time I read it I heard it in Moya’s voice! A part of me thought, “I just spent two years with Moya, is she going to be the voice of all the female characters when I read plays now? But I just had a searing moment of clarity that Moya was the person to channel the character’s humour and darkness.    

Tell us about the play and what attracted you to it  

Moya: Leora emailed me the play and I read it in one sitting and was left quite struck by it. I loved the content of it. I’m going to let you describe it, Leora.   

Leora: It’s a mystery, a resurrection, an excavation, and an interrogation…and a late-night fireside chat. And somehow it tracks this very unlikely relationship between a woman and a young man. I don’t want to give too much away by overexplaining it because it contains a lot of layers.  

Moya: I’ll just add that the character I’m playing, Bella, is a middle-aged professor of creative writing at Yale University, and part of the play is about her interactions and relationship with a young male undergraduate student in her class.  

What have you enjoyed most about the rehearsal process?  

Moya: I love the improvisational way that we’re working in and the abstract nature of the process. We’ve excavated the text and its incredible layers. And then it’s about playing the minor and major keys of all of those ideas and finding which ones erupt, or stick, or sear into us.  

Did you have any pre-existing dynamics or shorthand that you can bring to your work on this play? 

Leora: Hmm. I feel like the key thing is trust. A lot of trust. Yeah.  

Moya: There was a pre-existing dynamic and shorthand because of spending so much time together—I don’t know that I could intellectually articulate what it is. I can understand the vocabulary or the way that Leora’s brain might be operating, and I trust that.  

Moya, how has the completion of your MFA in Directing informed your work as an actor?  

Moya: Majorly. I always call it a luxury, going back and doing my MFA in Directing. As a mid-career artist, it did feel like a luxury for my brain to go back into curiosity, humility and rediscovering what I love in an art form. I feel like the intellectual rigor and the creativity that I was able to access without the pressures of the rehearsal room and the production being sold was really exciting. I think about theatre in a different, much more stirring way at this point in my life, which feels both challenging and satisfying.  

Why should people see this play? 

Moya: I think that it’s both…Leora, what did you call it? A little monster? A gentle monster?   

Leora: A giant, tiny…. 

Moya: A Giant, Epic, Tiny monster! It will seem like one thing, maybe a known thing, and then there may be hiccups that twist that turn you in a different direction that might not be explicable. The play holds different universes.  

Leora: It’s also quite rare for an audience to have this intimate (experience), both in terms of proximity and relationship. Moya is in conversation directly with audience members for a lot of the show. It’s rare to have an opportunity to have that much access to an actress like you, Moya, where you are really bearing all and can afford to be so restrained and so true because it is a small theatre.  

Moya: It’s so exciting to be able to be given that opportunity. To have that kind of relationship, that intimacy.  


Thank you for chatting with us, Leora and Moya! Break legs!    

The Sound Inside is now on at The Coal Mine Theatre in Toronto until May 28. Tickets are available here