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Profile: Kristopher Thompson-Bolden

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thompson-boldenArriving at the Orpheum Theater on December 16, “Billy Elliot” has swept hearts across the state of Minnesota. The production unleashes a heart-warming tale about an 11-year-old boy growing up in a small town in northern England during a coal minors’ strike in the early 1980s.

On his way to oblige his spurring masculinity at a weekly boxing class held in the towns community center, Elliot stumbles upon his purpose when left to deliver the building’s keys to the evening ballet instructor. These are keys, he quickly realizes, are a metaphor for the necessity of unlocking his potential as a ballet dancer.

Billy’s desire to be a ballet dancer is met with disapproval and criticism by his family, who live in this hyper-masculine town of coal minors and old-fashioned souls. In this town, a boy who dances might as well throw himself into a well or don a dress in the summertime. Yet Billy is not just feeding a curiosity or rebelling against his father’s disapproval of the art, he’s merely stepping into his own portrait, and here, pirouettes serve as brushstrokes across a limitless canvas.

Grammy-award winning musician Elton John composed the musical backdrop for this arguably perfect story directed by Stephen Daldry.

Being part of this production seems like it would be a lifetime opportunity, and it was for African American actor Kristopher Thompson-Bolden.

Thompson-Bolden has had an ensemble role in the touring production of “Billy Elliot” since August 2010. Participating in this Tony-Award winning play doesn’t just warrant an inner smile for this seasoned actor but, it also brings a sense of accomplishment and an understanding that hard work really does pay off.

“It really feels amazing.” Thompson-Bolden said. “When I got the job I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe they wanted me to do the show.”

Not only does Thompson-Bolden get to exhibit a multitude of skills in acting, dancing, and singing in this production, but he is also the acrobatic coach for all the young actors who play the role of “Billy.” He described this as an opportunity that allows him to further demonstrate his position as a fearless leader.

“I’m in charge of all the acrobatics that they do in the show. Once a week we have a full hour class, and I have to show up before each show and work with whichever ‘Billy’ is performing that evening,” he explained. “It feels good to have the opportunity because all of the creative team is from London, but they are more familiar with the theater side, and I’m able to utilize my acrobatic skills to assist the production in a wonderful way.”

Thompson-Bolden, a native of Texas, has been acting since he was a child. “Because I’m the only child, I had to entertain myself a lot. My mother would see me playing around and doing scenes around the house and she knew she had an actor on her hands. She wanted to nurture my gift so she put me in acting classes where I did television and film,” he remembered. “But one day, I saw this opera and instantly, I got into doing that. And from there I progressed to theater because musical theater is another form of opera.”

Thompson-Bolden, who has been attached to many shows, one of which includes the now closed “Color Purple, the Musical,” which was played locally at St. Paul’s Ordway, auditioned for “Billy Elliot”, because the story illustrates a path he believes we must all take through self-acceptance and seeking validation.

“The message in this play is universal,” Thompson-Bolden said. “My mother came here to visit me for Christmas, and saw the play for the first time, and the first thing she said was, ‘That character was you, and it’s so many other people too, whether it’s dance or any perfection that the rest of your family doesn’t do or understand.’ To dream big and not settle for someone telling you ‘no,’ or that you don’t have the resources or talent to do it, doesn’t cater to just one audience, it speaks to us all.”

For more information on the Historic Orpheum Theater performance schedule, visit www.hennepintheatretrust.org


 

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