MK Productions Founder in NJACT Hall of Fame

By Victoria Ford | Oct 30, 2019
Photo by: Ariana Centamore

Stafford Township — Mark Keeler of Manahawkin, the man behind MK Productions, the audio engineering outfit that powers just about every community event around Southern Ocean County and beyond, has been inducted into the New Jersey Association of Community Theaters Hall of Fame.

“This induction into the NJACT Hall of Fame is truly an honor,” he said. “This award has made me realize that my work is being seen and recognized in the theater community throughout the state.”

Community has always played a huge part in his and his family’s life, he said, naming Stafford Founders Day, school activities, outreach events, fundraisers, community theater and sports – especially Pop Warner football, soccer, basketball, high school football and volleyball at Southern Regional. “These activities not only kept me busy, but involved heavily in the community.”

“Hands-on” has been a way of life for Keeler from a young age. “Chores were a must, and working on weekends with my grandfather, Moe Keple, as a laborer in construction allowed me to build things with my own hands,” he explained. Those skills he later applied to building parade floats and scenery pieces for local shows or plays.

His older brother Michael was heavily involved in the performing arts growing up, so Mark would tag along to rehearsals to work in the shop and behind the scenes. While learning and being surrounded by all aspects of theater, the two skills that stood out to him were audio and carpentry. “Audio became more of a hobby during my middle school years while playing sports, and listening to music more before games.”

Keeler started helping out with tech for Our Gang Players around 1990 at the Barnegat firehouse. Then in middle school he started at Surflight Theatre as a summer intern, getting more involved with audio and sound design. After high school, he completed a two-year internship at Modular Sound in Morrisville, Pa., doing office and shop work, productions managing and gear repairs.

He recalled, “A year and a half into the internship program, my boss George Williamson asked me, ‘How would you like to go on the road?’ George was also the road manager and audio engineer for Judy Collins. I then worked with Judy ‘on the road,’ touring the country for three years off and on, doing random gigs for Modular when I was home in between.” He worked at Yankees Stadium for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

Keeler founded MK Productions in 2011, doing private and corporate events and shows all over the tri-state area. In 2013 he was hired at Surflight as head audio engineer for three summer seasons, sound designing off-Broadway shows and summer stock – 14 shows a week, including children’s theater shows. This year he became production manager/audio engineer for Bird and Betty’s in Beach Haven.

Today, MKP produces roughly 250 events per year, offering professional live sound, video and photography, event lighting and A/V lighting to create any mood, sound design, digital and analog consoles and microphone rental packages. Keeler can now say he has been involved in LBI’s nightlife entertainment for 20 years.

He has also worked as a freelance audio engineer and production manager/technician and has continued to sound design 12 to 15 shows/musicals a year for off-Broadway, regional theater companies, community theater troupes and local high schools. He has received two sound design awards from the International Music and Entertainment Association.

“Thank you to my bosses and other industry people for trusting me in my designs, allowing me to showcase my talents and work throughout the years,” Keeler said. He added he is grateful to his family, friends, colleagues and “my amazing girlfriend Ariana for dealing with my crazy schedule of events.”

NJACT is a volunteer-run, nonprofit organization with the mission to celebrate creativity, craftsmanship and community in local theater and to recognize outstanding achievements by artists of all disciplines involved in the performance and production of New Jersey Community Theatre, mainly via the Perry Awards, the state’s premiere community theater awards program.

— Victoria Ford

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