Rider University professor writes play based on life of Darryl “DMC” McDaniels

LAWRENCEVILLE — When it comes to playwriting, it’s tricky to walk this way, but one Rider University professor did it — with the blessing of her subject.

Dr. Sheena Howard, a Rider professor of communication, wrote a play concerning the life of  Darryl McDaniels — the “DMC” in Run-DMC — and he came to Rider over the summer to be part of a read-through.

“Darryl has a story that is tumultuous but also inspiring because he came through it in the end as a healthy individual,” Howard said in a press release about the play and visit.

As for McDaniels, he believes Howard’s play transcends his own story.

“It’s about imagination, creativity, art, comic books, rock ’n’ roll, hip hop, identity, secrets and most importantly how our unfortunate situations don’t define us — we do,” he said. “It’s literally a superhero story.”

The read-through of the play took place in June at Rider, giving Howard and McDaniels an opportunity to hear the script read aloud by a cast for the first time and gain insight into the story and its ultimate production on stage. Howard and McDaniels were joined by professional actors from Philadelphia and New York City as well as several students from Rider, including those in the University’s theatre program.

“Usually as a performer, you don’t have much of a say about the script, but I liked the collaborative nature of the read-through and how Dr. Howard and Darryl wanted to hear different perspectives from everyone,” said Haley Hartline, a senior who is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting for Film, Television and Theatre, and who read portions of the part for the character based on McDaniels’ biological mother. “The moment you walked into the room, you could tell he had a very big presence, even when he wasn’t speaking, but he was such a kind person and very receptive.”

McDaniels achieved instant success when Run-DMC released their debut album in 1984. The group went on to significantly influence the look and sound of hip-hop, dominating American music for decades. However, despite his substantial impact as an artist, McDaniels grappled with depression and substance abuse. Another personal challenge emerged during his work on his autobiography when he uncovered the fact that he had been adopted.

In 2006, VH1 documented McDaniels’ quest to find his birth mother. Parts of his life story have also been portrayed in various forms, including his 2001 autobiography and a 90-page graphic novel that reimagined DMC as a comic book superhero. Theater represents a new medium for both McDaniels and Howard, who, in addition to her scholarship on Black comics, has written for Marvel and DC Comics.

McDaniels was drawn to share his story on stage because of the inherently intimate and live nature of theater. He said, “In the theater, you can have more of an emotional connection with the audience. It allows the audience to be there and present in real time.”

Naa’san Carr, a senior political science major and the president of Rider’s Student Government Association, played the part based on McDaniels’ older brother. He found it surreal but enthralling to work directly with a living legend on a story based on his own life.

“At certain points,” Carr shared, “he would nod and agree with the portrayal or he would reminisce and tell us how it really was, how to say certain things. It was really cool to have him there to tell those details.”

And despite the superhero elements of McDaniels’ story, his humanity was ever present during the reading. Carr noted, “I think that DMC is a really down-to-earth person. He kept it real with us the whole time.”

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.