As part of an ongoing series covering this year’s Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Repertory Theater production of Anything Goes, Patch sat down with Matt Kempner, a senior who plays the comedic role of Moonface Martin, an insecure gangster whose worst fear is not being feared enough.
Patch: What musical or performance activities are you involved in and outside of the High School and what Repertory Theater Productions have you participated in in the past?
Kempner: Last year, I played the part of Wilbur Turnblad (Tracy’s father) in Rep Theater’s production of Hairspray. I am also a member of Concert Choir and Mens Choir. I really love being a part of Rep Theater. I’m sad that waited until my junior year to audition. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an actor. Outside of school, I have been taking acting classes since I was young. I have an agent in the city and I have been acting professionally since my freshman year of high school.
Patch: What is like to work as a professional actor? What are some of the projects you have been involved in?
Kempner: It can be annoying at times – I’ll get called to go on an audition and I’ll end up waiting a room packed with people who are about my age and look exactly like me. Still, it is really rewarding. I had the opportunity to work with the Coen Brothers who directed “The Big Lebowski” and “No Country for Old Men.” It was a three act off Broadway show called Offices. I also had a guest spot on the crime TV drama, “The Unusuals.”
It sounds like the audition process is nothing new to you. What was the audition and casting process for Anything Goes like?
Kempner: I am actually a fan of this audition process. I thought my call back went badly so I was surprised when I learned that I had gotten the part. The night the cast list went up on the Music Boosters website, I was playing in a dodge ball tournament. I didn’t look at Facebook or talk to my friends until I got home. When I finally found out, I was so excited and my family was really happy for me. Although I didn’t know much about the show at first, I love the comedy and the music – especially “There’s No Cure like Travel” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” I couldn’t be happier with the selection.
Anything Goes is known for intricate and large scale tap numbers. Do you have any experience with tap? What was it like to witness such a large cast learn this rigorous art form?
Kempner: I went in to this experience totally blind. I’m definitely a “newbie” in the tap world. A lot of us came into this without any experience, so I feel like we are all learning together. It’s definitely a great bonding experience… watching everyone in the cast come together from reading a script to putting on this elaborate show is so awesome. There’s nothing like it.
Being a part of Rep Theater is a huge time commitment meaning that you spend so much time with the same people. Tell us about the relationship you have with your cast mates.
Kempner: Having to juggle Rep and college applications has definitely been a challenge, but I honestly don’t mind the time commitment. I definitely love what I do. The relationship with the cast is amazing. You have all of these people who don’t have classes together and don’t really run in the same groups but they get along with each other and have a great time because of Rep.
What is it like to work with music director/producer Jan Allen, director, Matt Capodicasa and choreographer, Dance 2000’s Gisa Dilrio?
Kempner: Ms. Allen is great. She’s so patient and she knows what she’s doing, especially when it comes to the one on one music rehearsals. Matt is incredible. After working with him in Hairspray, I honestly don’t think I would have come back to Rep Theater this year if he wasn’t the director. He lets us find our own characters. And Gisa is fantastic. I don’t know how she pulls it off, getting so many kids who have never tapped to learn these numbers.
How do you spend your time when you’re not pursuing acting or rehearsing at the High School?
Kempner: I’m also President of the Film Club at the high school and I am an Officer with the Student Government Association. As cliché as it may sound, when I have time off, I really just want to hang out with my friends. I’m used to the old balancing act that is time management, but I think I have had senioritis since freshman year.
What are some of the stars who serve as your inspiration? Do you also have a favorite film or director?
Kempner: Although I see myself as a comedic actor, I really admire Marlon Brando. His style was so diverse and he is definitely a character actor that I can look up to. I also admire Dustin Hoffman, and my favorite director is Quentin Tarantino. My favorite films are “Rushmore” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Have you decided where you will be attending college in the fall? Will you continue to study acting?
Kempner: I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have decided to go to Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania where I will study acting. I’m sure I will do a lot of theater in college, but I really want to do film and television in the long run – that’s the dream’s dream.