Center Stage to Center Ring: The Real Tray

By Jordan Nickels | Theatergoers know about playwright Kimber Lee’s poetic play brownsville song (b-side for tray), showing how the family copes with the death of 18 year-old Tray Thompson. But what many don’t know is this play is based on a true story of 20 year-old Tray Franklin Grant, an aspiring boxer from Brownsville, Brooklyn. Kimber Lee, who is also from Brooklyn, heard about Tray through a blog posted by Sarah Deming, Tray’s tutor:

“Tray Franklin Grant, 20, was the first boxer I ever tutored at our gym. He was lighthearted, charismatic, and had great athletic talent. Together we wrote an essay about the murder of his father that won Tray a $1,000 college scholarship. A few months later, he was shot to death on a stoop in Brownsville, the victim of a street beef that had nothing to do with him. Many of our boxers compete with Tray’s name on their trunks. He is a reminder of the violence that plagues our communities and of the necessity for programs like ours that keep children off the streets and give them something to strive for.”

– Sarah Deming, author of the blog The Spiral Staircase (December 20, 2013) 

Kimber Lee was moved by the story of this inspirational young man, killed by gang violence, and was motivated to bring awareness to this issue by adapting it for the stage.

Read more about Tray Franklin Grant below:  

Read more about playwright Kimber Lee and how brownsville song came to be:

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