Growing up in a household of vocalists, Angela Watson-Modeste took her singing talent for granted.
“My family sings. Mostly gospel, in the church,” said Angela, who is from Houston, TX. “It wasn’t until I got to high school and found out from the choir director that I could actually make a living singing” that she considered a career in the arts, said Angela.
That teacher’s encouragement helped Angela decide on her life’s work. She received a scholarship to study classical voice at Texas Christian University. She also acted in productions at Jubilee Theatre in Fort Worth. Eventually, she established her own theater company.
“I started a theater company with two friends. It was [socially] conscious theater, presenting the African American experience,” said Angela. “We had original works – we wrote all of them.”
The goal was to offer two plays and one musical each year. While Angela was hands-on with the company for its inaugural year, she moved to New York shortly afterward. She’s been living in Brooklyn the past 10 years.
It is her destiny, she says, recalling how she used to watch “Showtime at the Apollo” on television and took note of the many references to Brooklyn that were made during the program.
“I wanted to come to Brooklyn. It seemed like a special place,” said Angela, who has a 6-year old song with her husband of eight years. “I’m living that dream.”
A recording artist with a label in Italy, Angela’s schedule includes touring, choir directing, cantoring at Church of St. Joseph in Harlem and Church of St. Francis on the Upper East Side, and serving as worship leader at her church in Astoria.
And, of course, being in the cast of “Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou.”
For the Oct. 22 production, Angela plays the role of Laura, a friend of voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. The show centers on the voting rights struggle of Mrs. Hamer, a real-life person, and other fictional characters in her community in the early 1960s. That fits right in with the kind of works Angela enjoys.
“I love writing and reading shows about causes,” said Angela, who has written her own show about jazz singer Sarah Vaughan. “I am familiar with Fannie Lou Hamer, so it caught my attention when I saw the audition notice.”
While the creator of Fannie Lou musical is intent on taking the show to Broadway, Angela is poised to go right along with it. A career as a singer-actress was the ideal choice for her, she said.
“I love singing and acting together. To be able to express yourself – it’s two-fold,” she said. “It’s a release that gives me so much joy.”