Cleveland Play House to Present BREATH AND IMAGINATION, 2/14-3/9
This week our nation remembered and paid homage to DR. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his efforts during the American Civil Rights Movement. Cleveland Play House's next production, Breath and Imagination, will bring to light the story of a lesser known trailblazer in the cause for equality: Roland Hayes. Born the son of former slaves, Roland Hayes made a name for himself as the first world-renowned African-American classical vocalist. Raised during the Jim Crow era, Hayes overcame many obstacles to achieve his dreams of becoming a professional singer and his ultimate dream of opening an integrated music school in the South. Breath and Imagination beautifully weaves together the life of Roland Hayes through classic spirituals, beautiful arias and original songs. Written by acclaimed playwright Daniel Beaty, directed by May Adrales, and starring Cleveland native Elijah Rock in the role of Roland Hayes, Breath and Imagination will run from Feb. 14 - March 9 in the Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare.
Born into poverty in 1887 and raised on the same Georgia plantation where his mother had previously worked as a slave, Roland Hayes discovered early in life that he had a special gift. Trading in his late father's pocket watch for singing lessons, he studied with teacher and Oberlin graduate Arthur Calhoun, who helped Hayes develop his unique voice and taught him the importance of what it meant to be an "artist." Despite only having a fifth-grade education, Hayes followed his passion for singing to Fisk University where he pursued his studies as a college student and became a soloist with the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Hayes would eventually become the first African-American to perform at Boston's Symphony Hall and would go on to sing for kings and queens all over Europe. Yet despite his great success and celebrity status, Hayes experienced first-hand the hatred and prejudice that still existed in the deep South.
CPH Artistic Director Laura Kepley Exclaims: "It takes breath and imagination to sing a classic aria, to persevere against oppression, and to reach personal and artistic goals. Roland Hayes, the subject of Breath and Imagination, Daniel Beaty, the playwright of Breath and Imagination, and Elijah Rock, the performer in the role of Roland Hayes, are artists with remarkable and vivid stories to tell. CPH is thrilled to welcome back Daniel Beaty, and to welcome Elijah Rock home to Cleveland."