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From MMA fighter to playwright: Lee Edward Colston II on the power of Black theatermakers

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The First Deep Breath takes audiences inside the Jones family home, where Pastor Albert is the proud leader of the Mother Bethel Baptist Church.

Colston II — a former corrections officer and MMA fighter who eventually earned his M.F.A. in acting from Julliard and a recipient of the National Black Theatre’s I AM SOUL Playwrights Residency — has written an explosive family drama with a queer spin.A memorial service planned to honor the pastor’s late daughter spirals as secrets unravel among the family’s children and how far they will go to keep their skeletons in the closet.

The play continues the theater’s commitment to LGBTQ+ narratives, including last season’s West Coast premiere of The Inheritance and the upcoming world premiere of The Lonely Few starring Tony Award winner Lauren Patten.

Queerty caught up with Colston II shortly after the play’s opening, described by critics as “a juggernaut of family, race, and personal issues” and “wildly entertaining.”Not many people can say they’re a former corrections officer, MMA fighter, and Julliard graduate.

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