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William Woods University play "All My Sons" brings students, community together

William Woods University play "All My Sons" brings students, community together

February 26th, 2014 in News

Kate Keller, played by Suzy Johnston of Fulton, tries to tell Ann Deever, played by Laura Liebhart, that they should still have hope that Keller's son has not died during the World War II battle in the play, "All My Sons" by Arthur Miller. The play premieres at Dulany Auditorium on William Wood University's campus 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Community members and college students make up the blended cast.

Photo by Brittany Ruess

When Kathy Potter moved to Fulton, she said she was realistic about the lack of opportunities to pursue her passion - theater.

She and her husband Joe Potter moved to the area when Joe took a job teaching theater at William Woods University.

Kathy Potter, who graduated with a theatre degree from California State University-Los Angeles, was a stay-at-home mom and a substitute teacher who made a steady living.

But years ago when William Woods University and her husband gave her a chance to guest direct productions, she took advantage of it. Then, she took advantage 18 more times.

Kathy Potter is the director of William Woods University's current production of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons," which centers on the dramatic impact of World War II on two families.

View photos of the play here.

When she's not directing, Kathy Potter is the coordinator of borrower services for the Missouri Student Loan Group within the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

"My first love is theater," Kathy Potter said. "If I could make a living at it full time that's what I would do. I'm an actress and a director. That's really who I am. That's what I'm trained to do."

As the guest director, Kathy Potter was given the unique opportunity to select the play. She said "All My Sons" is a classic American tragedy that will make audiences think.

"I've directed all different things," Kathy Potter said. "I've directed comedies and musicals and children's shows, but there's nothing like a good tragedy. And this one has parallels to ancient Greek tragedies. There's a hero figure with a fatal flaw and when a choice is made and an action is taken there's always a consequence to the actions taken whether good or bad. This has all of the things I like about a classic American theater. It's just a really great drama."

A high priority for Kathy Potter is to stay true to the author's intentions. Throughout rehearsals, actors have gone home with lots of line notes, she said.

"I feel very very responsible for the integrity of the script," Kathy Potter said. "I always tell the actors if you're really smart and creative then write your own script. We're presenting the script the way Arthur Miller wrote it. So, we're not inventing lines. We're not paraphrasing. We're not getting the gist of the line. I'm very particular about them getting the script the way Arthur Miller wrote it."

Joe Potter said his wife has stayed true to Arthur Miller's work and his intent, and because of her background as an actress, has been able to relate to her cast members in addition to being an "excellent and positive motivator."

"She's a very quiet and calming coach," Joe Potter said.

Kathy Potter works with a "blended cast" for "All My Sons." Community members and William Woods students act together on stage. The idea of a blended cast is not new to William Woods, though.

Suzy Johnston of Fulton said she's been playing in William Woods productions since 1996. As a child Johnston dreamed of being an actress, but marriage and motherhood put that dream on hold. Once her children were grown, Johnston ran out of excuses.

"There was nothing holding me back," she said. "I thought I'd try it and see what happens."

Johnston said her first role was small in 1996, but she gradually built on her experience. Now as a wife, mother and grandmother, she's a starring character in "All My Sons."

"This has made my life pretty complete," Johnston said.

While this dream may have come late for Johnston, it's coming to fruition at an early age for Logan Garner, 12, of Fulton who plays a neighborhood child named Bert in the play.

Garner said the improv show, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" sparked his interest in acting.

"It's nice to be a part of something that really pleases an audience," Garner said.

Like Kathy Potter, Garner was nine when he first hit the stage. Garner also described "All My Sons" as a tragic play that is emotional - a key element to all the productions he's acted in.

"You can really make the audience think about what the real world really is," Garner said.

"All My Sons" premieres 7:30 p.m. Thursday at William Woods' Dulany Auditorium.