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S. Epatha Merkerson is best known for her 17-season run as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on NBC’s Law and Order. But these days she’s doing a play in New York called While I Yet Live, off-Broadway. It’s written by Kinky Boots author Billy Porter.

It’s always amazing to be able to sit down and have a dialogue with the audience,” says Merkerson. “Just to see what we’re doing and if it’s coming across. It’s great to be with the actors that way.”

While I Yet Live details Porter’s life growing up in Pittsburgh with five women – his mother and his sisters. The play only runs until October 31st at New York’s Duke Theater.

“It’s been a great experience for me. It’s been six  years since I’ve been on stage. I’m working with three women of a certain age,” says  Merkerson. “Folks are coming out. It’s been quite an experience. You can always tell when Black folks are in the audience. There are call and response parts of the play and Black people really get the idea of call and response.”

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