The surefire components to the phenomenal success of Ovation Award and NAACP Theatre Award-winning /actor/director/writer Rufus Bonds, Jr. are his all-natural talents that defy to be denied, a strong work ethic and discipline, and the drive and vision to push himself to steadily more significant challenges – not only for himself but for the benefit of generations to come. Rufus is recognized for the resonance and depth of both his baritone-tenor voice and his commitment to the touched-by-history characters he portrays. From regional and off-Broadway roles in “She Stoops to Conquer,” “Big River,” ”Sing Hallelujah” and “Romance in Hard Times” to national tours of “Miss Saigon,” “The Lion King” and “The Color Purple” to International. Porgy in “Porgy and Bess”, to Broadway glory in “Rent,” “Once On This Island” and “Parade” (for which he was nominated for the prestigious Drama Desk Award), Rufus has been an arresting presence in some of today’s most challenging musical theater roles. And he has plenty more passion to give - in the performance arena and beyond.
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, for Rufus, singing was more than just a pastime joy. It was a vehicle through which he was able to come out of his shell. It was while studying for his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry at the University of Cincinnati that Rufus encountered future gospel great Donald Lawrence who insisted on teaching him two songs that he knew would get Rufus into the program at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music (CCM). True to Lawrence’s prophecy, Rufus was accepted into the elite program (it only took 16 new students a year), earned a full scholarship and found his calling. “In chemistry, I loved lab work, but couldn’t see myself doing just that for the rest of my life. After a summer training in dance at the Nat Horne Musical Theatre in New York, Rufus auditioned and landed his first Production contract with “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” (starring Michael Crawford).
Rufus gleaned important insights and lessons from every role he’s ever taken. For example, while playing Jim Conley in “Parade” (directed by Hal Prince at Lincoln Center in New York), he learned much about the racial tensions and the social climate of early 20th century America in this historical story which took place in Marietta, Georgia. Rufus was so powerful in this role as the man implied to be the murderer of a 13 year-old girl that he was nominated for the prestigious Drama Desk Award. Challenges of other stripes awaited him when he played the character of Jim in a production of “Big River” (at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles). “In that play, half of the cast was deaf, so I had to sing, act and do sign language – simultaneously.”
Rufus enjoyed the role of a lifetime as Mister in the national touring company of “The Color Purple: The Musical.” “Years ago when I first saw the movie,” Rufus recalls, “I told my wife whenever they get around to making it a stage musical, I will be playing Mister. I saw the character not as an evil man but as a man whose soul was hurting. I wanted to tell this man’s story from the full spectrum of who he was as a Black man in that time period. Many of the issues he faced during that period are still prevalent today. And after reading the book several times - highlighting every paragraph Mister was in or mentioned – I knew it would be important that this man have redemption. I was so pleased to find that the director Gary Griffin had the same thoughts about the character.” Rufus’ focus and diligence on the essence of Mister paid off handsomely when he was presented with the NAACP Theatre Award for Best Supporting Male during a ceremony held at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre.
Mr Bonds became a Semi-Finalist of the Eugene O’Neill festival for his play “ The Sisters of Rosewall High” Composer credit and ownership are concepts heavy on Rufus’ mind nowadays after having spent two-and-a-half decades as a performer. “What sets me on fire is working with a dynamic team of people to create a body of work.
Talented, purposed, multi-directional and dynamic, triple threat artist Rufus Bonds, Jr. – at 60 – is still among the hottest properties in the entertainment community. And he’s only just begun. “There is so much more I want to do with my life,” the performer, husband and father states, “but so little time.”
Awards & Nominations:
Awards: Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award/Barack Obama, Drama Desk Nomination, Ovation Award-winner, NAACP Winner, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Member, and Phi Beta Delta Honor Society Member