When Bishop Dunne Senior D’Angelo Lee got an invitation to see “The Fortress of Solitude” last month, a play bound for New York City and possibly Broadway, he immediately took the opportunity.
Kimberly Grigsby, the musical director of the play, who had just finished up her Broadway production of “Spider Man, Turn off the Dark,” heard that D’Angelo was a poet, lyricist and rapper, and said, “I want to meet him!”
She arranged for D’Angelo and his mother, Tosca, to be her guest at the March 26performance. With the best seats in the house, they got to experience “an amazing musical – it was brilliant,” D’Angelo said, “I think it’s my favorite play of all time, and I’ve seen ‘The Color Purple.’”
Ms. Grigsby has directed seven Broadway plays and 12 off-Broadway plays since moving to New York from Dallas sixteen years ago, and looks for young talent wherever she is.
After the play, Kimberly arranged for D’Angelo to meet the entire cast, and one member asked him to rap for them. D’Angelo performed the rap he did on the “Welcome to Bishop Dunne – Now you are a Falcon” video, which he helped write and was sent to all new students accepted into BDHS last month.
As others went for a back-of-the-house tour, Kimberly had one more surprise for D’Angelo. She invited him to follow her outside the theater and waiting for him in the lobby were the two main actors, Kyle Beltran and Adam Chanler-Berat, who play the young men who meet as kids and grow apart as one goes off to private college in California and one stays in their poor neighborhood and turns to a life of crime. Both actors encourage D’Angelo to continue his writing and rapping, and told him they expect to see him on a stage one day soon. They exchanged e-mail addresses and Snapchat accounts, so the three will keep in touch.
A week later D’Angelo had one more surprise: Kimberly Grigsby was teaching a masters-level class at SMU before she returned to New York, and invited him to attend it.
D’Angelo went to the class the next day, on April 4th and said he watched as Ms. Grigsby taught twelve of the 25 students “how to make the music and the lyrics they were singing, come alive.” SMU is D’Angelo’s dream college, and where Kimberly attended on a full scholarship 25 years ago.
One more surprise came that afternoon when he learned his photo had been chosen as the poster for the Wilmer Hutchins 3rd annual Fashion Show, “Rip the Hallway,” to be May 14t at the high school. D’Angelo was encouraged to try modelling to help his music and rapping career, and it’s apparently working.
Easter is a time of renewal and D’Angelo feels like he’s come out of a dark winter and into a brilliant spring. Has it been the best two weeks of his life? “I would say so!” he said.
“The Fortress of Solitude,” is based on the novel by Jonathan Lethem and a book by Itmar Moses, with music and lyrics by Michael Friedman. It’s a story of 1970s Brooklyn, where two boys, one black, and one white, become friends through their mutual love of music and comic books. The world premiere was held in Dallas and the play is headed to the Public Theater in New York City and then – if all goes well – Broadway.
Information provided by Judy Porter.