Artist Spotlight: Dulcena Kemmerlin
Doug Yetter: You may be the first Delaware native I’ve interviewed since I started this column. Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Dulcena Kemmerlin: I was born in Wilmington and raised in Middletown. I call Milford my home now.
DY: You touched thousands of lives as a teacher and had a career one mutual acquaintance called “legendary”—and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. What made you want to teach?
DK: My parents fostered many children for the state, on top of raising six children of their own. Helping my parents with the younger kids gave me a sense of empathy. I enjoyed being able to teach and help shape their minds.
DY: You’ve also been involved with the Miss Delaware pageant for years. How did that start?
DK: I participated in the Miss Black America Pageant as a senior in high school, and again as a college freshman. While I wasn’t successful, I used the experience to improve in areas that I lacked—such as interviews and social skills. I competed in the Miss Delaware State College pageant to serve as Delaware State University’s official representative and won—which helped me gain some much-needed confidence.
I also won the Mrs. Black Maryland Pageant in 1983, and Miss Hemisphere in 1995. I began my journey as a Local Director for Miss Delaware in I993 when I was participating in a show at Second Street Players where Kenney Workman was the director for the show. Kenney was the producer for the Miss Delaware Scholarship Organization, and he asked if I would be interested in becoming a Local Director and starting a Miss Milford pageant. The rest is history.
DY: When did you become interested in theater?
DK: I became interested in theater after my mother sent all six kids to see Purlie Victorious in New York when I was 10.
DY: What have been your favorite roles—and why?
DK: During my junior year of college, I auditioned for a production of Cinderella and was cast AS Cinderella! I never thought an African American would land a role written for a Caucasian female. There was some very non-traditional casting as the entire cast was mixed. I enjoyed playing Vy—the preacher’s wife—in Footloose at Clear Space, where the director cast us as an interracial couple. And I loved being Motormouth Maybelle in Hairspray at Possum Point—a show that continues to be so relevant in our society today.
DY: What is your favorite part of being in a show?
DK: I enjoy being able to use my singing talent and develop a character to fit my personality without taking anything away from the intent of the character in a particular show.
DY: Least favorite?
DK: Wasting time during rehearsals!
DY: How do you define success?
DK: Success is having empathy and showing respect for others. Having a husband of 45 years standing by you and knowing how important family is to both of us. We have two wonderful sons and four beautiful grandchildren. Teaching and helping students become beautiful souls and retiring when you know the time is right. After I retired in 2019, I was able to help my sons with their children. Success is also having my two oldest granddaughters following in my footsteps and being on stage with me! ▼
Doug is the Artistic Director of CAMP Rehoboth Chorus, and Minister of Music at Epworth UMC. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.