A musical by Daniel Beaty
Directed by Maurice Emmanuel Parent
Music Direction by Asher Denburg
Scenic Design by Baron E. Pugh
Costume Design by Elisabetta Polito**
Lighting Design by Aja M. Jackson
Sound Design by David Wilson**
Production Stage Manager: Nerys Powell*
Assistant Stage Manager: Athena-Gwendolyn Baptiste
Assistant Director: Audrey Seraphin
Dramaturg: Pascale Florestal
Production sponsored by Carol & Richard Daynard
Director Maurice Emmanuel Parent sponsored by Rose Ann Berwald & George Chism
Davron S. Monroe sponsored by Paul & Liz Kastner
Costume Designer Elisabetta Polito sponsored by Ruth Whitney
Piano Sponsored by Sam & Gretchen Shubrooks
Before there was Marian Anderson, there was Roland Hayes – one of the first world-renowned African-American classical vocalists. Breath & Imagination is a play with music that chronicles the amazing journey of this pioneer from the plantation in Georgia to singing before kings and queens in Europe. At the heart of the story is Roland’s loving, complex relationship with his mother – his Angel Mo’. Employing spirituals and classical music, Breath & Imagination is an inspirational exploration of one man’s determination to be an artist despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
A co-production with The Front Porch Arts Collective.
“A winning, inspirational story of a man who found his freedom in song.” – WBUR, The ARTery
Dramaturgy & Special Events
On Sunday December 9th and 23rd, Castle of our Skins, a concert and educational series that is dedicated to celebrating Black artistry through music, will present a tribute to Roland Hayes here at Lyric Stage. The celebration will include spiritual and art songs that were championed by Hayes and world premiere work that was created with youth in Boston. A reception…
Cast & Crew
Davron S. Monroe* – Roland Hayes
Davron S. Monroe* (Roland Hayes) is returning to the Lyric Stage after having appeared in Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Wiz, Camelot, Company, My Fair Lady, City of Angels, Sweeney Todd, One Man, Two Guvnors, The Mikado, Avenue Q, and Ain’t Misbehavin’. Musical theatre credits include The Little Mermaid (Company Theatre), Man of La Mancha (New Rep), Godspell (Moonbox Productions), Hairspray (Reagle Music Theatre), Dreamgirls, Jesus Christ Superstar, Children of Eden, Songs for a New World (premiere, Key West Symphony, Broadway Across America), Smokey Joe’s Café, Cinderella, Streakin’!, a ’70s musical revue, Sweet Charity, Brigadoon, and Show Boat. Cabaret: The All Night Strut. Opera: fully staged or concert/scene productions of Carmen, Treemonisha, Porgy and Bess, La finta giardiniera, Rigoletto, Lucia di Lammermoor, La fille du régiment, L’élisir d’amore, Così fan tutte, Die Fledermaus, The Tailor of Gloucester, The Gondoliers, Aida, and Die Zauberflöte. Davron premiered the role of Thomas Edison in Juventas’s New Music Group production of Light and Power. He has also appeared with many orchestral and vocal organizations, such as Boston Landmarks Orchestra (Lost in the Stars – a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, and The Chariot Jubilee), the First Church UU, Belmont, the Brevard Music Center (finalist, Orlando Opera’s Heinz Rehfuss Singing Actor Awards), Disney Entertainment’s Voices of Liberty, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, Key West Symphony (young artist), Houston Ebony Opera Guild, the New England Spiritual Ensemble, New England Voices, the Longy School Orchestra, and many other organizations throughout the greater Boston area. Davron was the first recipient of the Bob Jolly Award for up-and-coming local actors.
Yewande Odetoyinbo* – Angel Mo’
Yewande Odetoyinbo* (Angel Mo’) is a native of Detroit, MI and a proud graduate of Howard University, where she earned a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre and became a member of Sigma Alpha Iota. She also holds a shiny new M.F.A. in Musical Theatre Performance from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee. She returns to the Lyric Stage having appeared in The Wiz last spring. Some of her favorite performances include roles in Fannie Lou at Carnegie Hall, the national tour of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (Adventure Theatre), Trav’lin: The 1930s Harlem Musical (Seven Angels Theatre, Waterbury, CT), Show Boat (Reagle Music Theatre and Fiddlehead Theatre), and In the Heights, and Seussical at Wheelock Family Theatre. She has been seen in various staged readings with The Front Porch Arts Collective and Goodspeed Opera House. It is her lifelong dream not only to perform and teach theatre to inner-city youth but also to open up a performing arts school in Nigeria. She thanks the Lord for His many blessings and her family and friends for their love and support. She would also like to thank Maurice Emmanuel Parent, the Front Porch Arts Collective, and the Lyric Stage family! Ase!
Doug Gerber – Mr. Calhoun
Doug Gerber (Mr. Calhoun) is making his Lyric Stage debut. He made his professional stage debut at the age of nine as Tiny Tim and Young Scrooge in the Huntington Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol at the Wilbur Theatre. Since then he has performed in among others, The Fantasticks, A Future Perfect (Flyleaf Theater), State Fair (Weston Friendly Society), Titanic: The Musical (Woodland Theatre), Fiddler on the Roof (Woodland Theatre), Wonderful Town (RMT), and Suddenly On Christmas Eve (Acts From The Heart). Doug has a diverse background in music as well. His conducting studies began at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music. He received his B.A. in Music from Eastern Nazarene College, and then became an assistant to Boston area Maestro Yoichi Udagawa the following year. He made his conducting debut with the Quincy Symphony and Melrose Symphony Orchestras, and earned fellowship to the prestigious Conductors Institute of South Carolina. Doug holds a Masters degree in Orchestral Conducting from Bard College Conservatory of Music in New York where he studied under the tutelage of Maestros Harold Farberman and Leon Botstein of the American Symphony Orchestra. He is a guest conductor at Walnut Hill School for the Arts, the Boston Civic Symphony, and the Wellesley Symphony Orchestra. He has composed numerous pieces for instrumental ensembles. Berkshire Storms, for orchestra, dedicated to the unpredictable weather patterns of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, is published by ECS Music Publishing.
Nile Scott Hawver* – Officer, Pa, Preacher, Miss Robinson, Frenchman, King George V
Nile Scott Hawver* (Officer/Pa/Preacher/Miss Robinson/Frenchman/King George V) is making his Lyric Stage debut. Other Boston credits include The Irish and How They Got That Way (Greater Boston Stage Company), Man of La Mancha (New Repertory Theatre), Edward II (Actor’s Shakespeare Project), Finish Line (Boston Theater Company), Violet, Mothers and Sons (SpeakEasy Stage), Carmen, Greek (Boston Lyric Opera), The Edge of Peace (Central Square Theatre), Etherdome (Huntington Theatre), Twelfth Night (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company). Regional credits include performances with Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, Ocean State Theatre Company, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and many more. Nile holds a B.F.A. in acting from the University of Rhode Island, and an M.F.A. in acting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His photography can be seen all over the Boston area, and has been featured as poster art for the Lyric Stage’s My Fair Lady and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Nile will next been seen in the Boston premiere of Once at Speakeasy Stage in March 2019. Thanks to Maggie for all of her love and support! Proud AEA member. nilehawver.com nilescottshots.com
Maurice Emmanuel Parent – Director
Maurice Emmanuel Parent (Director) is making his professional directorial debut. He is Co-Founder and Executive Director of The Front Porch Arts Collective, and Breath & Imagination marks The Porch’s first fully-staged production. Most recently he co-directed Into the Woods at Brandeis University. As an actor, he was last seen at the Lyric Stage in Into The Woods. Other theatre credits: Huntington Theatre, New Rep, SpeakEasy Stage, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Off the Grid Theatre Company, Wheelock Family Theatre, Cape Playhouse, Boston Theatre Works, Underground Railway Theatre, and Nora Theatre Company. Maurice’s acting work has earned two Elliot Norton Awards, three IRNE Awards and an ArtsImpulse Awards. He is a Resident Acting Company Member of the Actors’ Shakespeare Project, adjunct theater professor at Boston University and Tufts, and is the Boston College Monan Professor of Theatre Arts for the 2018-2019 school year.
Asher Denburg – Music Director
Asher Denburg (Music Director) is making his Lyric Stage debut. Originally from Wilmington, DE, his burgeoning career spans the worlds of Broadway, jazz, classical, Top 40 pop, and more. A musical renaissance man, his work has been heard stateside on both coasts and around the world. Selected credits: as music director: Beehive (Theatre By The Sea), Christopher Anselmo concert (Musical Theatre Factory, Joe’s Pub), Madame Defarge (Conductor/AMD, Gloucester Stage, world premiere; as performer: Man of La Mancha (New Rep), King Richard’s Faire (2017; Carver, MA), Lusty Lil’s Place Revue (2014, 2015; Cedar Point); as orchestrator/arranger: Fable (NYMF 2014, world premiere), Campus Chatter (University Of Delaware, world premiere), Dance To The Movies (transcriptions, Boston Pops), and most recently, The Jersey Tenors – Make America Guido Again. Asher graduated summa cum laude from Berklee College of Music, where he studied under Broadway luminaries Eric Stern and Bill Elliott. In his junior year, he became a staff accompanist at Bos-ton Conservatory, where he works to this day. Much love to the entire company, and eternally grateful to Maurice for trusting me with this story! For Mom and Dad, always; and for Heather.
Baron E. Pugh – Scenic Design
Baron E. Pugh (Scenic Design) returns to Lyric stage after previously designing the scenery for The Wiz. Select credits include tick, tick… BOOM! (Brown/Trinity), Marie Antoinette (York College of Pennsylvania), We Are Proud to Present…(Connecticut College), The Clean House (Threshold Stage Company), We Have Always Lived in the Castle, The Producers, Driving Miss Daisy (Barnstormers Theatre), God’s Ear, Faithless, Ghosts, The Hothouse, The Merchant of Venice, La Tragédie de Carmen (Boston University), The Triumph of Love, and Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey – Next Stage Ensemble). Baron recently received his M.F.A in Scenic Design from Boston University. For more information and upcoming projects, please visit BaronPughDesign.com
Elisabetta Polito** – Costume Design
Elisabetta Polito** (Costume Design) returns to the Lyric Stage having designed costumes for Camelot, Peter and the Starcatcher, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, City of Angels, Into the Woods, Water by the Spoonful, Stones in His Pockets, and Time Stands Still. Other recent designs: Cyrano, The Last Schwartz, Out of Sterno (Gloucester Stage Company), Inherit the Wind (Ocean State Theater Company), Dog Fight, Big Fish, A Future Perfect, Necessary Monsters, The Color Purple, Kurt Vonnegut: Make up your Mind, In the Heights, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (SpeakEasy Stage), Mary Poppins (Wheelock Family Theater), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Addams Family: The Musical, Unbleached American, Bernarda Alba, These Shining Lives, The Nutcracker, The Rimers of Eldritch (Stoneham Theater), Pajama Game (Boston Conservatory), Blood at the Root, The Wiz, Othello, Inner City Blues, In the Heights (Boston Arts Academy), Marie Antoinette: Color of Flesh (Providence College), White Christmas (The Company Theatre), L’élisir d’amore, L’ Amico Fritz , Il Campanello, Martha, The Bartered Bride, The Merry Wives of Windsor (Boston Midsummer Opera), The Love of the Nightingale (Emerson College), Into the Woods, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Cherry Orchard, Hairspray, Metamorphoses, Imaginary Invalid (Concord Academy). Rent, Dr. Faustus (Suffolk University), Funnyhouse of a Negro, Three Sisters (Brandeis Theatre Company). 2016 recipient of an Elliot Norton Award.
Aja M. Jackson – Lighting Design
Aja M. Jackson (Lighting Design) is a Boston-based lighting designer. Recent regional credits include Hear Word! (American Repertory Theatre), Straight White Men (New Rep), The Leftovers(Company One – Strand Theatre), The Last Wife (WAM Theatre), and Wit (Calderwood Pavilion – Boston Center of Performing Arts). Other credits include the Midwest tour of What the Wind Taught Me and The Biomorphic Dance Festival in NYC. Aja is Resident Lighting Designer for interdisciplinary, site-specific movement company, Nourishment. Previously she worked as a stage manager with the Denver Center Theatre Company and in production management with The Santa Fe Opera. Aja holds an M.F.A. in Lighting Design from Boston University, a B.F.A. in Lighting Design from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, and a B.A. in Dance Performance from the Johnny Carson School of Music. Aja recently was a Mentor in Residence with Brighter Boston, an outreach organization aimed at giving urban teens practical training in event and theatre productions.
David Wilson** – Sound Design
David Wilson** (Sound Design) returns to the Lyric Stage having previously designed City of Angels, Barbecue, and Souvenir. He has designed lighting or sound for over 350 productions of opera, theater, concert, and dance. He has served on the faculty of Brandeis University, heading the graduate program in sound design, and has designed and taught at Boston College, Boston Conservatory of Music, Bowdoin, Emerson, Harvard, New England Conservatory, Tufts, Suffolk, and UMASS-Lowell. Regional credits include Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Boston Playwrights Theatre, Central City Opera, Central Square Theater, Company One, Deborah Abel Dance, Dibble Dance, Gloucester Stage, Merrimack Rep, Moonbox, New Rep, The Nora, North Shore Music Theater, SpeakEasy Stage, Stoneham Theatre, Shakespeare and Co, WHAT, and Wheelock Family Theater. He has received multiple nominations and awards for his work, most recently the Elliot Norton Award for ASP’s Richard II. DW-Design.com
Lindsay Genevieve Fuori – Assistant Scenic Design
Lindsay Genevieve Fuori (Assistant Scenic Design) is joining the Lyric Stage for the first time. Recent design credits include A Brief History of America (Hangar Theatre), Antigone (Boston University), and Miss Havisham (MetroWest Opera). Upcoming Boston projects include Ragtime (Wheelock Family Theatre), and Paride ed Elena (Odyssey Opera). Lindsay holds a B.F.A. in Scene Design from Boston University. lindsayfuori.com
Lauren Corcuera – Props Artisan
Lauren Corcuera (Props Artisan) is making her Lyric Stage debut. Though still new to the Boston theatre community, she has gotten around to working with several different companies and colleges programs. While working mainly with props, she also has filled roles in the areas of costume design, wardrobe, and scenic painting. Select prop credits include Cabaret (Moonbox Productions), Noire Hamlet (Centastage), Carrie (Boston Children’s Theatre), the Agitators (Gloucester Stage), and Circle Mirror Transformation (Brandeis University). She is grateful to all of the mentors, collaborators, and all-around swell people she has been able to and will work with.
Nerys Powell* – Production Stage Manager
Nerys Powell* (Production Stage Manager) was Assistant Stage Manager for Kiss of the Spider Woman this season. She was the AEA Assistant Stage Manager for Gypsy and The Wiz, and the Production Stage Manager for Orlando and Hold These Truths, all last season. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY and is a member of the Actor’s Equity Association.
Athena-Gwendolyn Baptiste – Assistant Stage Manager
Athena-Gwendolyn Baptiste (Assistant Stage Manager) is a Trinidadian-American musician, an artist in the greater Boston area, and a 2011-12 alum of the Boston Children’s Chorus. They work at Central Square Theatre in many capacities such as Assistant Patron Services Manager, Box Office, Front of House, Production, and has acted as Assistant to the Director, and Stage Manager. They’ve appeared in CST’s Youth Underground productions such as Don’t Knock Opportunity, and this year’s Circle Up and Here and There. This year, they’ve had the opportunity to be rehearsal stage manager for Henry IV, The Plague, Delicate Particle Logic as well as CST’s Bend the Arc. They’ve greatly appreciated the opportunities to expand from acting into stage management.
Audrey Seraphin – Assistant Director
Audrey Seraphin (Assistant Director) is an artist and arts administrator who works in the greater Boston theatre community as an actor, director, stage manager, and community organizer. Recent projects include Heritage Hill Naturals (Production Stage Manager), Lost Girls (Asst. Director/Asst. Stage Manager), and HAIR (Asst. Director/Stage Manager). By day, Audrey is the Membership & Capacity Building Manager at ArtsBoston; part of her role there includes leading the Network of Arts Administrators of Color (NAAC) Boston. She is also a proud member of The Front Porch Arts Collective, where she serves as the Community Engagement Specialist. Audrey is a graduate of Emerson College’s Theatre Studies program and a lifelong Massachusetts resident.
Pascale Florestal – Dramaturg
Pascale Florestal (Dramaturg) is a director, educator, and collaborator in the Greater Boston Area. Her recent directing credits include Shrek the Musical! (Greater Boston Stage Company), DIASPORA! by Phaedra Michelle Scott (SpeakEasy Stage), Red and the Wolf by Ingrid Oslund (Open Theatre Project), At the Line by Lynne S. Brandon (Boston Playwrights Theatre), An Education in Prudence by Stefan Lanfer (Open Theatre Project), and An Issue of Blood by Marcus Gardly (Front Porch Arts Collective). Pascale has also been the Assistant to the Director for Liesl Tommy, Billy Porter, Paul Daigneault, and M. Bevin O’Gara. Pascale currently works at the Boston Center for the Arts as the Venue Associate. She also works with SpeakEasy Stage as the Boston Project Coordinator and Education Director for Front Porch Arts Collective She received her B.A. in Theatre Arts from Ithaca College.
The Front Porch Arts Collective
The Front Porch Arts Collective is a new black and brown led theatre company committed to advancing racial equity in Boston through theater. For nearly a decade, Boston has existed without a professional black-led theatre company employing artists of color and demanding the consideration of the major news outlets in Greater Boston. Boston’s reputation as an unwelcoming and racist city, featured prominently in a seven-part Spotlight series in The Boston Globe, highlighted issues of structural racism, including the visible cultural segregation in the arts. As a black-led theater company committed to rewriting those narratives, our namesake signifies a communal spirit, inspiring us to serve communities of color and produce art that is inclusive of all communities and welcoming to all audiences, to inspire a more tolerant and inclusive Boston. Over the past year, The Front Porch has produced The God’s Closet Reading Series at Central Square Theater featuring the plays of Marcus Gardley. During October 2017, black odyssey was first produced as a staged reading to a sold out audience. Since then, The Porch has announced their inaugural season co-producing Breath & Imagination with the Lyric Stage, black odyssey with Underground Railway Theater at Central Square Theater, and The Three Musketeers at Greater Boston Stage Company.
* denotes member of Actor’s Equity Association
** denotes member of United Scenic Artists (USA-Locat 829)
*** denotes member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC)
Press & Reviews
“Not only did he break through in this art form of opera but he went back after and made sure he made a place for other black artists coming up. He tutored. He made sure there was a path once he had blazed his own. And that’s what we want to do. We want to make sure there’s a path for other artists to come through.”
“It’s been pretty clear for years that no actor in Boston musical theater sings better than Davron S. Monroe. But if there were any lingering doubts on that score, they should be put to rest by Monroe’s virtuosic performance in Daniel Beaty’s ‘Breath & Imagination'”
“Whether Hayes is pushing a plow with his mom or standing proud on the concert stage, the nimble, smoldering Monroe, who has appeared in featured roles in musicals around town (as well as in opera and with symphony orchestras elsewhere), proves himself a melodious force to be reckoned with.”
“Bravo to Monroe. He carries it off. His pitch as a singer is accurate and his pitch as an actor is spot on, whether he is shirking his chores as a child, pushing back against his mother as an adolescent or bemoaning his second-class treatment as an adult performer. His voice is strong and supple, ranging from near whispers to fortissimo final notes.”
“It’s about one of the greatest men in our history … It tells the story of a man who overcomes enormous obstacles to achieve his dreams,”
“Davron came in and he confirmed all of our thoughts, and he is absolutely perfect for the role. The beauty of it is that he can sing the classical music and has beautiful classic form, and he has a vocal facility that can mold and shape into whatever the music requires in that moment, and he’s a great actor.”
“Roland Hayes is one of the most important people to have lived in and enjoyed living in this town – because of what he did and who he was.”
“It’s about a black man who uses uncompromising professionalism to overcome overwhelming racism and achieve artistic and financial success.”
“Hayes’ background and unique sound led him to become the first black concert singer in the world to record his music and combine black spirituals with European opera.”
“The remarkable journey of this 20th century icon is brought vividly to life thanks to first-time director Parent’s intelligent, sensitive vision, and a tour de force performance by Davron S. Monroe.”
“Yewande Odetoyinbo (Angel Mo’) as Hayes’ grounded, supportive mother, is Monroe’s equal, contributing her warmth and incredible vocal skills to give their relationship its authenticity”
“Breath & Imagination is a must see…The Lyric Stage is filled with music and love, take part in it.”
“Yewande Odetoyinbo turns in a stellar performance as the tenacious woman who won’t give up easily on her dream to have a preacher for a son.”
“Monroe triumphs in Nemorino’s gorgeous aria from L’ELISIR D’AMORE, “Una Furtiva Lagrima,” when a tell-tale tear reveals true love. Every operatic tenor worth his salt covers the aria. Add Monroe’s name to that list. Kudos to the Lyric and Front Porch for reminding us of the treasure that was Boston’s for so many years.”
But it is Davron S. Monroe who makes Breath & Imagination one of the most unforgettable productions of the year… He proves here that he’s a bonafide leading man who can carry an entire show on his back without breaking a sweat. From the comedy of a playful, pouty child being dragged to church to the assurance of a world-renowned singer with “the pain and the promise” of his people in his throat, Monroe’s epic portrayal is both divinely touching and unforgettably stirring.
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