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‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ debuts at the Strand

Jimi Hendrix is inspiration for play from Company One

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
‘The Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ debuts at the Strand
Actor Errol Service Jr. PHOTO: Courtesy Company One

Music, imagination and the importance of a strong community are central tenets in “The Boy Who Kissed the Sky,” a play by award-winning poet and playwright Idris Goodwin, produced by Company One, that debuts at the Strand Theatre this month. Inspired by the young life of Jimi Hendrix, the play probes artistic legacy.

“The Boy Who Kissed the Sky” follows a young boy and aspiring musician. While pursuing his passion, he conjures up the spirit of a bandleader named J. Sonic, who serves as a creative and musical guide. The two embark on a journey through time and space as the boy learns how to harness his artistry.

Local actor Martinez Napoleon plays J. Sonic. “He is a cross between God and that favorite uncle that everyone has, that always gives you money and candy and tells bad jokes and is full of personality,” says Napoleon. “Somehow he kind of meets both of those extremes.”

Poet and playwright Idris Goodwin PHOTO: Courtesy Company One

Though the show plays on fantasy, creativity and community, it’s not all easy sailing. Hendrix had a challenging childhood and some of the issues that plagued it, including substance abuse and poverty, are addressed in the performance.

Although the show is not a traditional musical, it does incorporate a lot of music into the performance. Music is the way that the protagonist handles big emotions and navigates the challenges of life.

“Music is the way that his world is widened, it’s the way that his world is lifted, it’s the way the world begins to make sense for him,” says director Summer L. Williams. “I think that resonates with a lot of people.”

Napoleon grew up in Malden and now lives in Boston with children of his own. Growing up, he says, there weren’t a lot of Black actors and stories on local stages. This show is the representation that was sorely lacking in his own upbringing. In addition to its diverse cast and production team, the play will be staged at the historic Strand Theatre in the heart of Black Boston in Dorchester.

Director Summer L. Williams PHOTO: Courtesy Company One

“[Audiences] can literally walk out of their doors, walk a few blocks down Columbia Road and see this amazing show that reflects them, and … who they are and where they live and the struggles that they face,” says Napoleon.

The show’s creative team has a resume to be reckoned with. Goodwin has collaborated with Company One on a number of standout shows, including the Elliot Norton award-winning “HYPE MAN: a break beat play.”

Divinity Roxx, who plays bass for Beyonce, and Eugene H. Russell IV developed the music for the show. Errol Service Jr. stars in the show alongside Martinez and powerhouse local talent Summer L. Williams directs.

“The Boy Who Kissed the Sky” runs July 14-Aug. 12 at the Strand.

Company One performances are always pay-what-you-can with a $0 minimum to reduce access barriers to theater.

“I want folks to feel joyful,” says Williams. “‘Boy Who Kissed the Sky’ is allowing us to participate in the joy that happens when a community gathers together.”