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Box Office (216) 241 6000

Subscriber Services (216) 400 7096


Roland Hayes' Remarkable Story On Stage at CPH

Posted January 23, 2014 in Press Releases






Press Opening Night: Feb. 19

CLEVELAND, OH (Jan. 24, 2014) 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 Imaginationwill 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.”

Breath and Imagination Cast

TOM FREY (The Accompanist) appeared at Cleveland Play House in Dirty Blonde. He most recently played Wilson Mizner in Sondheim’s Road Show at Stages Repertory, Houston (regional premiere). Other credits include Breath and Imagination, Hartford Stage and City Theatre (world premiere); Arms and The Man, The Admirable Crichton, and The 39 Steps, Peterborough Players; Dirty Blonde, Pittsburgh Public Theater; Souvenir, Seven Angels Theatre; Woman in Black and Free Man of Color, Penguin Repertory; Evelyn Oakleigh in Anything Goesand Billy Bishop in Billy Bishop Goes to War. Frey is United States resident director of Two Pianos Four Hands, and has also performed the show over 700 times across the U.S. and Canada at Hartford Stage, Stages Repertory, Portland Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Merrimack Repertory, Geva Theatre Center, Ordway, Laguna Playhouse, Dallas Theatre Center, Globe Theatre (Saskatchewan), and The Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, among many others. He graduated from University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ Professional Actor Training Program.

DAPHNE GAINES (Angel Mo') appeared off-Broadway in The Lily's Revenge (Obie Award) and Orpheus, HERE Arts Center; The Walk Across America for Mother Earth (New York Innovative Theatre Nomination) and Yokasta's Redux, La MaMa; Three Sisters, The Classical Theatre of Harlem; Faust, Classic Stage Company; Cedar Creek, Abingdon Theatre Company; Nightvision: A Vampyre Opera, The Public and Brooklyn Academy of Music; Revelations: The Outtakes, The Public; and many more. Regional theatre includes Ruined (Henry and Ovation Award Nominations),American Night: The Ballad of Juan José (Ovation Nomination), and Gee's Bend, Denver Center; A Raisin in the Sun, Geva Theatre Center; Three Children, Hong Kong Fringe Theatre; and O Guru Guru Guru, Actor's Theatre of Louisville. Film includes Love Is Strange, Dynamite: A Cautionary Tale and Once We Were Strangers. Voiceovers include True Detectives (HBO) and Hits. A graduate of Circle in the Square Theatre School, she has a bachelor’s in Theatre and Psychology from the University of Georgia.

ELIJAH ROCK (Roland Hayes) is a native Clevelander, also known to the Cleveland community as Eric Myricks. He was recently seen in the West Coast premiere of Breath and Imagination at the Colony Theatre Company in Burbank, Calif. Rock attended University School K-12 where he became a vocal major in Cleveland Institute of Music’s Young Artist Program. He also appeared at Lyric Opera Cleveland, Jacques Brel; Great Lakes Theater, To Be Young Gifted and Black; and Karamu House in Jitney, Sophisticated Ladies and Black Nativity. Additional credits include Cory in August Wilson’s Fences, and plays with music Vaudeville and Hoodoo Love as Ace of Spades. Musical roles include Coalhouse Walker Jr., Ragtime; Tater, the world premiere bluegrass musical Paradise; and Anatoly, Chess at East West Players, Los Angeles. Rock co-stars in the film Three Blind Saints and the upcoming release of Salvation Street. He is an accomplished big/band jazz singer and tap dancer. Member of SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity. For more, see

Breath and Imagination Creative Team

DANIEL BEATY(Playwright) is an award winning actor, singer, writer and motivational speaker. His critically acclaimed plays Through the Night, Emergency, Mr. Joy, and The Tallest Tree in the Forest – Paul Robeson have been performed at venues ranging from Lincoln Center to the White House, and garnered numerous awards including an Obie Award for writing and performance and two NAACP Theatre Awards. A highly requested keynote speaker and thought leader, Beaty has worked throughout the U.S., Europe, and Africa speaking and performing on programs with luminaries such as Bill Cosby, Deepak Chopra, Hill Harper, Jill Scott, Donnie McClurkin, and Ruby Dee. An adjunct professor at Columbia University, diversity trainer, and youth development specialist, Beaty has spoken at all-staff retreats and led leadership training for a myriad of nonprofits and corporations. In fall 2013, Beaty launched a nationwide initiative using the tools of storytelling to help individuals and communities heal trauma — funded by W.K. Kellogg and Ford Foundations among others. He holds a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in English and Music from Yale University and a Master of Fine Arts in Acting from American Conservatory Theater. His poem Knock Knockbecame an Internet sensation receiving millions of views and has been transformed into a children's book, also titled Knock Knock, published by Little Brown Books. Penguin-Random House will publish his empowerment book Transforming Pain to Power in February 2014. Follow Beaty’s work at and Twitter @DanielBBeaty.

MAY ADRALES (Director) is thrilled to direct Breath and Imagination at Cleveland Play House. A freelance theatre director based in New York City, Adrales has helmed several world premieres including JC Lee’s Luce at Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3; Katori Hall’s Whaddabloodclot!!! at Williamstown Theatre Festival; the musical In This House at Two River Theater; A. Rey Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, Actors Theatre of Louisville; Thomas Bradshaw’s Mary, Goodman Theatre; Tommy Smith’s The Wife, Access Theater; and The Bereaved for Partial Comfort Productions. She recently directed David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and the Railroad at Signature Theatre and the Wuzhen International Theatre Festival in China, Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop at Milwaukee Rep and Hwang's Chinglish at Portland Center Stage. Upcoming projects include after all the terrible things I do for Milwaukee Rep and Deathtrap for Pioneer Theatre Company. She is a Drama League Directing Fellow, Women's Project Lab director, Soho Rep Writers/Directors Lab and New York Theatre Workshop directing fellow, and a recipient of the Theatre Communications Group New Generations Grant, Denham Fellowship and Paul Green Directing Award. She proudly serves as a Milwaukee Rep associate artist. She is a former director of Onsite Programs at Lark Play Development Center and artistic associate at The Public. She has her Master of Fine Arts from Yale School of Drama. Adrales has directed and taught at Juilliard, A.R.T., A Contemporary Theatre, Fordham University, New York University and Bard College. She is on faculty at Yale School of Drama. Please see

The design team for Breath and Imagination includes Rachel Hauck (Scenic Designer), Jennifer Moeller (Costume Designer), Jeff Nellis (Lighting Designer), James C. Swonger (Sound Designer), Mike Ruckles (Arranger), Rahn Coleman (Musical Director) Jared Mezzocchi (Projections Designer). The Stage Manager for this production will be Jennifer Matheson Collins and the Assistant Stage Manager is Tom Humes.

Breath and ImaginationSpecial Events

Tech Tuesday: Breath and Imagination

February 11, 2014 @ 7:00pm - 8:30pm
Hear from the director, then sit in on a technical rehearsal ("tech") to see how set, lights, sound, costumes and actors all come together as opening night nears! RSVP required.

Behind-the-Scenes: Theatre of Transformation

February 17, 2014 @ 7:00pm – 8:30pm
Award-winning actor, singer, and Breath and Imagination playwright Daniel Beaty tells character-driven stories that speak powerful truths, and speak truth to power. Beaty shares the unique perspective and practices he’s used to create his spoken word and plays, and his new book Transforming Pain into Power, in this insightful and interactive evening exploring how transformation can start on stage, and continue in our communities and homes.

TalkBack: Breath and Imagination
February 23, 2014 @ 5:00pm - 6:00pm

TalkBack: Breath and Imagination
February 25, 2014 @ 9:00pm - 9:30pm

TalkBack: Breath and Imagination
March 02, 2014 @ 5:00pm - 6:00pm

Ticket Information

Breath and Imagination will take place Feb. 14 – March 9, 2014 in the Allen Theatre at PlayhouseSquare. Tickets range in price from $45-$72 each. Students under the age of 25 with a valid ID will be offered a special $15 ticket price. Tickets are also just $25 for anyone under age 35, sponsored byScene Magazine. To order single tickets please call 216-241-6000 or Groups of 10+ save up to 40% off single ticket prices; call 216-400-7027.

Founded in 1915, Cleveland Play House is America’s first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, Cleveland Play House has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate and entertain diverse audiences in Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. It has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over its long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,300 CPH productions. Cleveland Play House looks toward its centennial while performing in three state-of-the art venues at PlayhouseSquare in downtown Cleveland. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund Cleveland Play House with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. We also thank the residents of Cuyahoga County for supporting Cleveland Play House through Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.

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