Breath & Imagination
Art Station Theatre
through June 10, 2018
Roland Hayes was a black singer who was born in 1887 where he grew up in a small town in north Georgia. His father had been a tenant farmer on the land owned by the family which had owned him during the days of slavery. His mother was a church lady and she wanted him to make something of himself. Just that her dreams and his were often on different paths.
Roland had been into singing from an early age, but not entirely into being in church choirs, albeit he sang many religious numbers. But, the days of persecution did not fade so fast. For the Jim Crow rules were still in existence in 1942 when his wife and daughter were arrested in Rome, GA for sitting in the white seat area in a show store. And Roland got beaten by the cops.
Not withstanding this sort of trauma which followed him the rest of his life, he moved away up Chattanooga and later to Brookline, MA. While you may only recall Paul Robeson from the same era, Roland Hayes was one who traveled aborad, sang before royalty in Europe and even had an affair with a member of a royal family. He wanted good schooling and opportunity for black students and his memory is preserved by a school of music in Roxbury, MA and such things a bronze plaque in Brookline, where he passed away in 1977, and streets named for him in Georgia.
Marcellis Cutler plays Rowland, while his mother is played by Theresa Hightower; both of whom have great voices. The white police officer is Tony Hayes and Patrick Hutchison is onstage on the keys, as they work through many numbers. Lest we forget, in the 1950’s we had segregation in bus stations, water fountains, and schools. And not all of the degradation has left us yet. So we thank Marguerite Hannah who directed this work and the Art Station for keeping memory alive at a time when we should all stand and yell out, NO MORE . . .
More info at ArtStation.org