My Way to Broadway with Grasan Kingsberry
My Way to Broadway with Grasan Kingsberry
There are few performers that stand out onstage like Grasan Kingsberry. Grasan is an Emmy Award winner and has over eleven Broadway credits. He was in the Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award winning Best Revival, The Color Purple. His Favorite Broadway credits include: Motown, Leap of Faith, Catch Me If You Can, Finian’s Rainbow, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Aida, and the Color Purple OBC. (Yes Grasan was in the OBC and revival!) Regional: One Night In Miami (Sam Cooke, Center Stage), Dreamgirls (Curtis, North Shore). TV/film: “Mozart In The Jungle,” “Royal Pains,” “Smash,” I Am Legend. This is how he found his way to the stage!
Where does your journey begin?
This probably starts around 11 or 12 years old when I expressed to my dad that I wanted to be in the Nutcracker. It was the local production of The Nutcracker, and one of my neighbors suggested that I audition for it. So I did that production before I took any class or did anything performing Arts related. I did the nutcracker at twelve, Then I told my dad I wanted to get into dance, so he enrolled me into a modern dance class.
From there I got into ballet because I needed the foundation of ballet for Modern. So I was a true dancer, growing up. Then around 15 years old, my sophomore year in high school I transferred to a magnet performing arts school in Charlotte. There I got to learn to play piano, sing in a men’s ensemble choir, learn music theory, and Musical theatre history so I really got to cultivate my artistry in a safe environment. It was truly like the fame school hahaha! My high school memories were all pretty much positive and that’s because of the arts.
Where does Juilliard come into play for you?
My junior year in high school, my classmate said she was auditioning for Juilliard. And I was like, “Oh? Juilliard? Who’s She?” and she went “No it’s a prestigious conservatory” Ha! So I did some research and I was like, “Oh, it’s in New York. I don’t care if it’s a one-year Conservatory, or an eight-year conservatory it’s getting me to New York!” So I auditioned, and I think because I didn’t really understand the pressures of it, I was able to let go of that fear of auditioning. So my mom and I got a train from Charlotte, North Carolina to New York.
And I remember we went up there in December, then Easter rolled around, and I got a big manila envelope from the Juilliard School. And I was like this can’t be a rejection letter, not in this big envelope. As it turned out, it in fact was my acceptance letter.That summer before my senior year I went to Juilliard summer program. So as soon as I graduated high school, I maybe had a month before I went to New York, and I hit the ground running as soon as I got to there. Looking back, my years at Juilliard were probably the hardest four years of my life honestly.
Not only for the training but it was the first time I was away from home. You’re dealing with coming of age issues, sexual identity, finding where you fit in and figuring out who I am in the world.
Then we had 9/11 happen during my junior year, and that really shifted things for me. It made me go “Do I need to stay in New York? Is performing what I’m supposed to be doing when the world is suffering?” all those kinds of existential questions that we love to ask ourselves. So I finished the four years and in my senior year I auditioned for a little show on Broadway called Aida.
Where does your Broadway Journey start post-Graduation?
I think Aida was my second Broadway show audition. I auditioned for The Lion King and got the Germany cast but the show was in German and I was like that’s not in my cards but thank you. And I’m glad I held off because I got a call in April asking if I wanted to join the cast of Aida on Broadway. So I’m one of the very very lucky people that had a job prior to graduating college on Broadway. I never take that for granted and through Aida, I found my agent. My agent was actually at the audition and he signed me after I booked the show. So that’s kind of how I got my agent as well as my first Broadway show from an open call.
When you’re young, you have a different kind of tenacity, that someone in their 30s might not have.
I was so passionate about doing the show because when I saw it, I was like, I’m going to be in that show. I attest my success to the power of visualization;There were over 200 men at that dance call and I didn’t know how many people they were looking for, but I knew I was about to slay this dance call. I really saw myself in the show and there was no denying it. Every cell in my body agreed with that vision. Aida didn’t seem like work, because I was telling a Nubian story I really connected with.
From then on, I jumped from show to show thankfully and really had some incredible experiences creating new Broadway shows. Which is also something that I love to do. I love being a part of something from its inception, because then you get to create your track. That makes you a part of the creation process in a really beautiful way because now there’s something of yours in a piece.
Actors love to be a part of the process, and no process was stronger The Color Purple’s.
That show is the probably one of the biggest highlights of my career. Both versions, but particularly the first one. That started the quest of my spirituality and understanding. Examining Who God is, Who am I to God and understanding that relationship. I mean when you’re dealing with the lyrics like “God is inside you and everyone else” it really makes you think. And that actually led me to my own now deepened spiritual practice.
and to check out Grasan’s resume and why he’s so good at what he does click here!