“Constant Learning”: Dominique Morisseau and J. Keys on Lasting Love

This is the sequel to Grio’s “Mighty Love” series, current until February. Read our first couple’s story here.

When Tony and MacArthur Genius nominated playwright Dominique Morisseau met producer James “J.” Key to their native Detroit, the heights they would climb, individually and together, were probably not foreseen. Twenty-three years and a viral wedding dance later, they have been married for almost nine years and are new parents, as well as creative collaborators. As theGrio celebrated black love with black history in February, the two graciously sat down with us to share a bit of their journey and lasting bond.

While Morisseau won historic accolades (and two NAACP Image Awards) for pieces like the musical Temptation jukebox Ain’t too proud, J. was forging his own path as a hip-hop artist, producer and engineer. When Dominique plays Skeleton crew opened on Broadway in January, it featured original music and lyrics by J., who is also part of the sound design team for his upcoming production, Confederates. But at first, J. simply had “all these butterflies” when he first saw Dominique perform his poetry at an event while the two were in college.

“I was like blown away just by her words and her wit,” he told us — and the feeling was quickly mutual. It was the start of a beautiful friendship and romance, as well as an eventual working relationship. But as Dominique shared, lasting love is not effortless.

“I would say that working together teaches us balance. I think we are constantly learning,” she said. “We constantly have to stop and recalibrate…I will say collaborating teaches us that because some days we’re up late listening to my rewrite of my piece, or some days we’re late trying to understand his musical contribution to the game. And so, I think it taught us the perpetual game of balance and just to be hyper aware of it.

Acclaimed playwright and author Dominique Morisseau gets the green light from Tony

Of course, most college romances don’t go far, let alone Broadway, so how do J. and Dominique make the romance last?

“I think one of the big lessons was that sometimes love requires space and space is a space to grow, a space to sort of discover yourself,” J explained. also learned when to push and when to pull and when to just release, because there were definitely times when I needed to push, definitely times when I needed to pull and then there were times when I had need to release…I think it was the same with her.”

Learn more about Dominique Morisseau and J. Keys’ love affair in our video above.

Maiysha Kai is theGrio’s Lifestyle Editor, covering all things black and beautiful. Her work is inspired by two decades of experience in fashion and entertainment, a love of great books and aesthetics, and the indomitable brilliance of black culture. She is also a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and editor of the YA Anthology. Body (Words of Change series).

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