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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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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(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 from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.

Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!

Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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