Cap T: Thirteen Years in Austin
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Interview with HIR director Delanté Keys

13 January 2017

Delante Keys
Cap T Artistic Director Mark Pickell got the opportunity to interview HIR director Delanté Keys about the show and his future.

You are recently new to Austin, but you have instantly found creative homes across the city. Why did you come to Austin, and where were you before?

I am originally from Washington, DC. Although, I consider Philadelphia my artistic training ground. I came to Austin because my partner and I are most likely nomads. We are always trying to see the world from a new angle. Or perhaps, it’s not that poetic and we are just Millennials who get bored quickly. Whatever the case, we were on a hunt for a new adventure and we had one friend in Austin who suggested we move here. So, sight unseen when ventured out like pioneers and never looked back. It has been well worth it. We really love it here. I’m a huge fan of the warm weather and as you mentioned the creatives here have been foolish enough to welcome me with open arms. We are excited to see what’s in store for the coming years here.

Why did you choo?se to direct HIR?
HIR was one of those plays that stole my heart from the very beginning. The play takes the family drama archetype we all know so well to lure us into a trap of familiarity, and then proceeds to pull the rug out from under us at every turn. All while asking the big fundamental questions about how we define ourselves, how we define others, and what binds us to each other. I find it riveting, hysterical, and refreshingly unique.

When was the moment you got bit by the theatre bug?

I took? a Theatre 1 class my freshman year of high school taught by a brilliant educator named Derek Anderson. In that room, I learned how to express myself in front of others, I learned how to channel the innate desire I had to create, and I learned that there was a constructive/safe/hallowed place for me to ask all the questions that were bottled up inside me about the hows and whys of a human existence.

Who are some playwrights that you admire?

Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Tracey Letts, Suzan Lori-Parks, Lin-Manuel Miranda,? Sarah Ruhl, Jordan Harrison, John Guare, Tony Kushner, James Ijames, Allison Gregory, and Anna Deavere Smith.

What has it been like to work with this group of actors?
It has really been an incredible process. I was fortunate enough to land some of the most talented and smartest actors in town for this project and they have made me so proud. They have been so generous in the room by allowed me to experiment and always showing up willing to play and make adjustments. I feel that we have become a little family.

If you could direct any show here in Austin what show would you love to share with the Austin community?

Superior Donuts by Tracey Letts? or The Love of the Nightingale Timberlake Wertenbaker, most likely the latter as I would want to act in Superior Donuts too badly.

What is the most challenging thing about working on HIR?

Probably the integration of the ?physical elements (props and set) into the action. We had a very short load-in and tech process which can be a real challenge on a show with this much tech involved, but the actors and creative team (again some of the most talented and smartest in town) are the upmost professionals and have handled every new curveball like champs.

What has surprised you most about working on this play?
How much tech the show needs. On paper it doesn’t seem like it calls for so much stuff, but as you begin to put it on its feet you realize it requires quite a bit of attention beyond carving out an interesting, nuanced, and believable emotional journey between a group of individuals. ?

What’s next for Delante Keys?

I have a bit of a break and then I am directing KID SIMPLE: a live concert of sounds with my side project artMEAT. I am still in talks with a number of folks about just what happens after that, but hopefully this year is like the last one and proves to be busy.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I’m never quite sure how to answer the questions about my future. I will say that I hope I have settled into an artistic home by then where I can direct, collaborate, produce, act, and try my hand at all my interests with trusted colleagues. I also hope that I will finally be able to start playing roles written for grown men instead of always being a twenty year old.

What do you hope the audience is talking about when they leave HIR?

I hope they are talking about change: Do we welcome it or stick it the familiar? Can we integrate the new and the old? Can we all move forward without others feeling like they are left behind?; as these are the questions for our intertwined human trajectory.

And on a side note, I hope the theater professionals are talking about Kayleigh Axtell our stage manager and unsung hero of this entire production who is just now finding her way back to stage management, something she excels at greatly.