It’s not every day that the Tony winning star of a Broadway smash hit decides to take a leave of absence and come visit Boston, but that’s just what Billy Porter, star of “Kinky Boots,” decided to do. He’s directing “The Colored Museum,” by George C. Wolfe, at the Huntington Theatre. Just what drew Porter across state lines to a frigid, snowy Boston winter?

One simple answer: “This is the play that changed my life,” says Porter. “George Wolfe wrote this play back in the eighties, and I was a teenager coming out of high school and looking for monologues to audition for colleges with, and my drama teacher gave me this play with every intention of knowing it would change my life and have resonance, and she was right!”

The play is broken up into a series of scenes pulled from different stages of history that play on stereotypes and explore what it means to be black in America.

That early exposure to Wolfe’s play showed Porter just what the theater is capable of. “What Wolfe was talking about in this play and the issues that he was tackling were things that, as an African American gay man, I had never really seen before, and I had never seen them in print, I hadn’t seen them discussed in public, so it was thrilling to feel like there was something out there that had a representation of me.”

Before reading the play, Porter says, “I didn’t know prior to that that I needed to be looking for something like that. It was having it appear in my life that illuminated the need and the desire.”

Though the play was written in the '80s, Porter says the dialogue “resonates still today, and that’s the sign of really amazing writing.” They’re performing the play exactly as it was originally written, with one exception. “There’s one word that’s been changed out of the whole play that George changed. But other than that, it’s word for word.”

While Porter is happy to work on the Huntington’s production of the show, he says he doesn’t really see a great deal more diversity in the types of plays put on in theater world than he did when he first started out. “It ebbs and flows. It just depends on the year,” says Porter.

Still, Porter hopes that people walk away from the play feeling something similar to what he first felt when he saw it. He says he hopes that the show helps people see that “even in the darkest times, there’s light, and there’s reason to be grateful and to celebrate.”

Costume change

What made Porter decide to take some time off from “Kinky Boots”? “My body,” says Porter with a laugh. “Eight shows a week is a really, really hard thing to do. I’ve been doing it for two years straight, and my body just needed a break.”

Porter will be returning to the role soon, but then leaving the show permanently in about a year. He says he’s not quite ready to think about saying goodbye just yet, “especiailly a character so near and dear to my heart, and so close to me emotionally and spiritually and personally. The combination of that, the actual part, the actual show, the message that comes with the show, and then the fact that people actually like it, audiences are responding to it, audiences are showing up, people are enjoying my performance – my life has been changed completely by this experience. It’s really significant, and really quite an amazing, amazing thing, and I don’t want to actually think about leaving it yet.”