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An Interview with Director, Kemati Porter

By Gary Wien

The language in The Deacons is just wonderful. I guess that's what you expect when you have a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet like Yusef Komunyakaa penn the script?
Absolutely. You always have a heightened language because poets deal with words. The play is focused on the language. It's more language driven than story driven in terms of the internal stories that each character has to tell about what has happened to them more so than plot.

What are some of the themes you see in the play?
There are the themes of brotherhood, loss, forgiveness and betrayal. Certainly one of parenting - who are your parents and what does it mean when you find out who is and who isn't a parent. And secrets... how secrets are revealed about people.

It's interesting with the characters who are not talking and those characters are the dead people who have so many secrets that are immediately impacting what is going on in the current day and time.

There's also the struggles behind what these two men grew up understanding to be what was needed to form a family, to protect a community, and continue a tradition. They are being challenged by a whole another generation that doesn't hold those values the way that they do and we call that conflict the war inside and outside the house. There's a war going on.

How do you feel about the cast?
I have a wonderful cast! It's like three of the most fantastic people to work on a piece like this. They totally embraced the language. They really understand what it is to work on a new piece and the attention they give it is extraordinary!

What is it like directing a world-premiere?
Well, the experience is really that of a collaboration. Everyone is looking at it for the first time. I'm looking at it for the first time, the actors are looking at it for the first time and the playwright is looking at it for the first time. Yusef has been very active with us in rehearsals. It's been quite helpful because as questions come up, he's there to respond or to entertain other thoughts about it. This is really a collaborative process between the director, actor, and a playwright.

My background is of someone who really does do a lot of new works. It's not the fact that they're being premiered, it's the fact that this is the first time we're actually getting the chance to work on the piece. It's not the end of a play. Sometimes when you say premiere it's like the development of the play is over, but it's not. And, in this case, I think and I hope that this is a play that will continue to be worked on.

It may be premiering for the first time but with each sucessive production more work will be done. The playwright will see things, actors will bring more to the process, and the director will bring more to the process. In a lot of ways, we're getting a first look at what the play potentially will be.

I know you have acted in the past...
Scares me to death! I revere actors because I don't think people sometimes realize how much it takes to go out on that stage. The thing about being terrified every night was a bit too overwhelming. Every time I did it there was not a night that I was not terrified. So, I have great respect for actors because I know what that takes and they are people who are much better at it than I am or ever will be. I'm very happy to vacate a spot in acting for them!

You went to school for directing, is there a certain approach you would advise someone interested in being a director to take? I only went back for my MFA in the last five years. I was taught directing by people who were already in the field in Chicago. And because I was part of a small theatre there was an ability and encouragement to learn as much as you could from people who were actually doing what you wanted to do. When young people ask me about which way to go, I always say you can discover what it is that you're attracted to by being part of a small theater and trying out different things. One thing about being in a small theater is that they're going to need you to do a little of everything!

I started off acting when I went for my undergrad and that's what I focused on. I came out and joined a little theatre company in Chicago and was acting but then things began opening up from stage management to directing and that's what fit.

It took me being inside of a small company and really having an opportunity to do all of the little things from selling tickets to selling drinks to see what I wanted to do.

What did graduate school for directing do for you?
Sometimes when you feel like when you don't come up through that structure that you may have missed something and you go back to figure out or find out if that's true or not. It also gives you a chance to focus on world theatre. You get the classics, contemporary pieces, and new plays and can take the time to really indulge in directing the classics and all of the major works that you want. You can really broaden your background and build a resume of shows you've directed.

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The Panto Company Presents "Beauty and the Beast" at The Newton Theatre
(NEWTON, NJ) -- When you think of a dying rose and a clock, candlestick andteapot who talk... you are thinking Beauty and the Beast. One of this season's spellbinding family shows from The Panto Company USA stars Dame Dotty Potty, Loopy Louie, Gaston, Belle and of course The Beast!  The company brings their show to The Newton Theatre on Sunday, March 3 at 3:00pm.
La Strada Ensemble Theater Presents "La Bella Familia" by Edwin Sanchez
(OCEAN GROVE, NJ) -- La Strada Ensemble Theater presents La Bella Familia by Edwin Sanchez from January 18-20.  The play deals with a Puerto Rican hit woman and the gentlest man in the world move next door to the neighbors from hell and everyone learns, the hard way, that family comes first.
Art House Productions Presents "The Passion Project" by Reid Farrington
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- Art House Productions presents the unique theatrical experience that is Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project performed by Laura K. Nicoll.  Eight performances will take place from February 21st to March 3rd. The Passion Project is a 30 minute vibration between performance, film, and installation. Carl Th.Dreyer’s 1928 immortal masterpiece, “The Passion of Joan of Arc” is the main narrative along with the history behind the making of the film, a discussion with a Danish archivist, the story of making this project, as well as Joan’s own story –– her trial, torture, and execution. The Passion Project explodes the film into the three dimensions; placing the audience inside the film, sitting next to Joan, subjecting them to the relentless rhythm of 35 mm film projection.
4th Wall Theatre Presents "Intimate Apparel" by Lynn Nottage
(MAPLEWOOD, NJ) -- 4TH WALL THEATRE continues its 22nd season with a one weekend run of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel.  The show will be presented as part of the Black History Month celebrations on February 22, 23, and 24 at the Burgdorff Center for the Performing Arts in Maplewood, NJ.  The show is directed by 4th Wall Executive Director Gwen Ricks-Spencer.
East Lynne Theater, the Henry Sawyer Inn, and Twin Gable's Inn present Murder Mystery Weekends
(CAPE MAY, NJ) -- The award-winning East Lynne Theater Company, with The Henry Sawyer Inn and Twin Gables Inn, present Murder Mystery Weekends on February 15-16, March 8-9, March 22-23, March 29-30, and April 5-6. Participants can test their crime-solving skills while staying in one of these lovely Bed & Breakfasts. East Lynne Theater Company's Murder Mystery Weekends were cited among one of the top five in the country by "AM NY."  

It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Betsy Aidem Puts A Woman's Touch On George Street Playhouse's "A Doll's House, Part 2"
Betsy Aidem is a veteran actress you might have seen on Broadway. Or maybe on an episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Or maybe on the big screen last year in “The Greatest Showman.” But over the next few weeks in New Brunswick, Aidem is adding a brand-new section to her résumé — by helming a sequel (of sorts) to a classic play that’s more than 100 years old.

Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

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