University of Idaho - I Banner
A student works at a computer


U of I's web-based retention and advising tool provides an efficient way to guide and support students on their road to graduation. Login to VandalStar.

A Gothic Mystery of What it Means to Be Human

A mastiff and a moorhen explore modern themes of power and isolation in the dark, gothic play “The Moors” 

The danger and bleakness of a desolate landscape seeps through “The Moors,” a play of two sisters and their maid, living in civilized isolation with only a giant mastiff to keep them company. Their solitude is shattered with the arrival of a hapless governess and a moorhen setting in motion a dangerous depiction of love and desperation, where nothing is what it seems.

“The Moors,” by Jen Silverman, combines the gothic romanticism of a Bronte novel with the contemporary mystery and danger of “Black Mirror.” The play, which closed March 13 at Hartung Theater, explored modern themes of power, alienation, celebrity culture, gender and class.

Unique Perspective from Animal Cast

Joseph Winder, a senior from Lafayette, California, majoring in theatre arts, found the script gives voice to the voiceless.

Winder played the Mastiff, a lonely philosopher dog who develops a relationship with an unassuming moorhen. Winder grew up on poetry and Shakespeare and immediately related to his character of the Mastiff.

“It’s a beautiful, poetic, epic, heartbreaking role to play,” he said. “He’s the most human character in the show.”

Winder performed his introspective role on all fours and on two feet depending who is on stage with him. He credits the “Animals” theatre class taught by Professor David Lee-Painter, which helps actors overcome their blocks through animal role play, as a good foundation for developing the tamed and untamed parts of his character, he said.

The Mastiff was countered on stage by the Moor-hen, performed by Kalyssa Montoya, a freshman from Emmett majoring in theatre arts. The relationship between these two animals highlighted the wild versus civilized conflict that was presented throughout the play.

Like Winder, Montoya was immediately attracted to her character. She related to how the chicken talks in short, simple sentences and avoids conflict.

“I am the Moor-hen,” Montoya said.

Chickens may appear tiny and inconspicuous, but appearances can be deceiving. And, on the desolate moors, secrets and deception abound among the animals and among the humans.

“The entire play is a huge poem,” Montoya said. “It’s dark and eerie and poetic.”

Both Winder and Montoya worked together in “Drowning Ophelia” in fall 2019, as did cast members Carly McMinn from Georgia, Alexa Lamers from Kalispell, Montana, and understudy Katharine Sonas from Spokane, Washington. Other “Moors” cast members, Aidan Leonard from Lewiston and Grace McGreevy from Moscow, appeared most recently in “This Random World.”

All cast members are students in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences.

Article by Kelly O'Neill, Department of Theatre Arts
Photography by David Harlan
Published March, 2020

Performance Update

In response to growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19, the Department of Theatre Arts has decided to cancel public performances of “The Moors” by Jen Silverman following tonight’s performance (Friday, March 13) at 7:30 p.m. in the Hartung Theatre.

Tonight’s finale will be a pay what you can show. Ticket holders are encouraged to contact Theatre Arts at 208-885-6465 or email for refunds or exchanges.


  • Hartung Theater, 625 Stadium Drive, Moscow
  • Free parking is available in the lot across from the theater and on Stadium Way.

Campus Locations

Physical Address:
Bruce M. Pitman Center
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264

Phone: 208-885-6111

Fax: 208-885-9119