The West Coast Premiere of

Breath and Imagination: The Story of Roland Hayes

A play with music
by Daniel Beaty

Breath And Imagination
Karan Kendrick and Elijah Rock

Additional Arrangements and Musical Direction
Scenic Design
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Properties Design & Set Dressing
Production Stage Manager
Public Relations
Technical Director
Set Construction
Scenic Design Assistant
Sound Design Assistant
Scenic Artist
Production Crew

Light Board Operator
Sound Engineer
Follow Spot Operator
Stage Crew
Key Art
Production Photography

Saundra McClain
Rahn Coleman
Mike Ruckles
Shaun L. Motley
Dianne K. Graebner
Jared A. Sayeg
Dave Mickey
Mary K. Gabrysiak
David Elzer/Demand PR
Robert T. Kyle
Red Colegrove/Grove Scenery
Carissa Huizenga
Jenna Riley
Orlando de la Paz
Mark Bate, Watson Bradshaw, Rene Osvaldo Parrs, Jr.
Cuyler Perry, Christopher Rivera, Matthew Tsang
Kathryn Horan
Iris Zacarias
Brian Cordoba
Andrea Dean, Genetra Tull
Michael Lamont

(in order of appearance)

Roland Hayes
Angel Mo'
The Accompanist/Officer/Preacher/Pa/
Mr. Calhoun/Miss Robinson/Frenchman/King George V

Elijah Rock
Karan Kendrick

Kevin Ashworth


Give Me Jesus  [Spiritual]

Plenty Good Room/Give Me Jesus (Reprise)  [Spiritual]

Let’s Have a Union  [Spiritual]

Witness  [Daniel Beaty]

Golden Slippers  [Spiritual]

Roland Preached  [Daniel Beaty]

Over My Head  [Spiritual]

Round About De Mountain  [Spiritual]

Hold On  [Spiritual]

Chattanooga  [Daniel Beaty]

I Hear Music  [Daniel Beaty]

Lord, I Want to Be a Christian  [Spiritual]

Roland, an Artist  [Daniel Beaty]

Ich grolle nicht  [Robert Schumann (1810-56) from Dichterliebe Text by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)]

Never Leave Me  [Daniel Beaty]

Gia Il Sole Dal Gange  [Alessandro Scarlatti (1659-1725)]

My God Is So High  [Spiritual]

I Need You  [Daniel Beaty]

O Del Mio Dolce Ardor  [Christopher Willibald von Gluck (1714-1787)]

Les Berceaux  [Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)]

Were You There  [Spiritual]

Don’t You Weep When I’m Gone/Give Me Jesus (Reprise)  [Spiritual]

Give Me Jesus (Reprise)  [Spiritual]

Never Leave Me (Reprise)  [Daniel Beaty]

Lord, How Come Me Here  [Spiritual]

Po’Pilgrim  [Spiritual]

'Breath and Imagination” is performed without intermission.

Running time: Approximately 90 minutes


Roland Hayes was born in Curryville, Georgia, on June 3, 1887. His parents, William and Fanny Hayes, were ex-slaves who worked as tenant farmers to raise their seven children. When William Hayes died from a work-related injury in 1898, Fanny – whom Roland called Angel Mo' – moved her family to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Roland HayesBecause he had to help support his family, young Hayes was only able to complete the fifth grade. He worked in an iron foundry, where he was badly injured when a conveyor belt pulled him into the machinery.

His mother made certain that he attended church regularly. He sang in the church choir and studied voice with local choral director Arthur Calhoun. During this time, he decided that he wanted to make singing a career.  He said:

One day a pianist came to our church in Chattanooga, and I, as a choir member, was asked to sing a solo with him. The pianist liked my voice, and he took me in hand and introduced me to phonograph records by Caruso. That opened the heavens for me. The beauty of what could be done with the voice just overwhelmed me.

Although Angel Mo' had been the one who introduced spirituals to Hayes, she was vehemently opposed to him wasting the money to study voice privately, instead wanting him to become a minister. Despite her opposition, Hayes could not ignore the siren call.

He left home in 1905 to become a student in Fisk University's preparatory program. In addition to his music courses, he sang with the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and supported himself as a waiter. Just before he was to graduate, he was informed by the teacher who had sponsored his studies that he was going to be expelled from school. Years later, the school presented him with an honorary doctoral music degree – one of eight he received over his career.

Hayes joined the Jubilee Singers when they toured in 1911. When they returned to Nashville, he decided to relocate to Boston, believing that he had a better chance of becoming a professional musician in the north than in the south.

Years later, he commented in his biography that:

I can say truly that never in my whole life have I wished I were a white man; but I confess that there were times, long ago, when it seemed difficult to be a Negro in a white world. In the South, I had been carefully taught my "place," and I did not suppose that in the North my place would be, in the beginning, less restricted than at home; but I had somehow hoped that I would not so frequently be reminded of it.

In April 1920, he sailed for London, where he gave a critically successful recital at Wigmore Hall and was "commanded" to perform before British royalty. This led to engagements in cities across Europe. Most received him warmly, but he had difficulties when he went to Berlin. He described the performance:

Well, I came out on stage, and there was a burst of hissing that lasted about ten minutes. I just stood there, and then I decided to change my program. As soon as it was quiet, I began with Schubert's "Du bist die Ruh." I could see a change come over the hostile faces, and by the end of the song I knew I had won.

He returned to the United States in 1923 and began touring the country. Southern venues would not engage him initially, but he soon sang to an integrated audience in Atlanta, as well as performing in other southern cities.  He spent most of the next two decades giving vocal recitals and performing with orchestras throughout the United States and Europe. It is estimated that his income for 1924 approached $100,000 (according to the Historical Statistics of the United States : Colonial Times to 1957, the per capita income in 1920 was $740.00).

He was given a hero's welcome when he sang in the Soviet Union in 1928. Unlike Paul Robeson, who made his first visit to the country six years later, Hayes did not embrace socialism as an alternative to America's political disenfranchisement of African Americans. He stopped touring in Europe in the 1930's because the changes in the political climate were no longer friendly to a black man.

He married his cousin Helen Alzada Mann in September 1932. They had a daughter, Afrika Franzada.

From the 1940's until his retirement in 1973, Hayes performed annual recitals at Carnegie Hall in New York and concerts at Fisk and other colleges. He purchased and settled on the Georgia farm where his parents had been tenant farmers in his youth. His biography, Angel Mo' and Her Son, Roland Hayes, was published in 1942 and a collection of spirituals set for solo voice, My Favorite Spirituals: 30 Songs for Voice and Piano, in 1948.

Roland Hayes died at the age of 89 at Boston General Hospital on January 1, 1977.  Author Marva Carter summed up his life and career:

Roland Hayes' life of almost ninety years reveals a remarkable story of a man who went from the plantation to the palace, performing before kings and queens, with the finest international and American orchestras, in segregated communities before blacks and whites alike. He was of dignified manner and non-violent persuasion. He chose to overcome racism by example and in doing so became a trailblazer. When he sang, art became more than polished excellence. It appealed to something universal, something beyond the emotions, and something beyond the intellect, something one could call the soul.

This production is dedicated to the memory of Lee Melville

This past May, the LA Theatre Community lost one of its greats. Lee Melville, a fierce champion of theatre in LA.

In his more than 50-year theatre career, Lee held multiple roles that included actor, stage manager, producer, and critic. As a critic, Lee could be harshly honest. However, he was always in service to the reader, and the theatre-going public. He believed that the role of a reviewer is not to bring something down, or give it an artificial lift.

For twelve years, Lee oversaw the now-defunct publication Drama-Logue. While he was the editor, the publication grew from printing mainly casting notes to containing full theatre reviews and features. Also, during his tenure, the annual Drama-Logue Theatre Awards were established. Ask anyone who was involved in LA theatre at that time and they will tell you that Drama-Logue’s influence in uniting and illuminating our rich theatre scene was incalculable under his leadership.

In 2001, Lee started the monthly magazine LA Stage, which would later be absorbed by LA Stage Alliance, the service organization for Los Angeles theatres, to become LA Stage Times. Through this organization, Lee became intimately involved in the Ovation Awards, and served on the Ovation Rules Committee for many, many years. As a voter, he saw around 4 to 5 shows per week!

In an interview, Lee said, “They ask me how I can go to theatre four or five times a week. I just look at them and ask how they can watch television four or five nights a week. Everyone has their own church at which they worship. Mine happens to be the theatre.”

Lee attended each and every opening night at The Colony. His presence, his smile, his sharp wit, his elegance, and his friendship shall be missed greatly. In June, his memorial was held here at our theatre, and the entire theatre community came to pay tribute. As further tribute, a seat in our theatre has been dedicated to the immense legacy of Lee Melville. A true man of the theatre.


What a year it’s been!

You may recall that last October we went public with the dire news that our future was in jeopardy – the economic downturn that began in 2008 had caused a reduction in charitable support and audience size that produced a crippling budget shortfall. Our next production, The Morini Strad starring Mariette Hartley, was already in rehearsal, but unless we raised $49,000 within two weeks we would have to cancel the production and, likely, the rest of the season.

The outpouring of support was staggering, and we reached our $49,000 goal in ten days. Morini was on!

But the balance of the season was still in question. Contributions continued to pour in, which was tremendously gratifying, but it still wasn’t enough to continue the season.

Then an anonymous supporter stepped up and loaned us the funds to mount the last two shows of the season, including our surprise hit Falling for Make Believe. It was an unimaginable relief – we cherish our subscribers, and our nightmare was leaving them holding tickets they couldn’t use.

But what of the future? We did NOT want to sell subscriptions to a new season unless we were absolutely sure we could deliver it – and it didn’t look good.

Then, a miracle.

For many years we had a pair of subscribers named Wayne and Marilyn Kohl, who were generous donors. Marilyn passed away, then Wayne, but their latest donation was still listed in the program.

Over the Christmas holiday, Executive Director Trent Steelman was home in Colorado. His father was looking through the donor pages of our programs to see if he recognized any names, and saw the Kohls listed. It struck him that they might be related to a close friend who was connected to the Kohl Family Foundation. He called his friend, who told him Wayne was his brother! So Trent's father put him on the phone with Trent.

From there Trent embarked on a journey with the Kohl family that entailed countless phone calls and emails, reams of paperwork, and even a Skype presentation.

It took 4-1/2 months.

The upshot was that the newly-formed Marilyn P. & Wayne H. Kohl Memorial Fund made a major grant to The Colony, enough to announce a new season with confidence. (As Tennessee Williams famously wrote in A Streetcar Named Desire, “Sometimes there’s God so quickly.”)

Our gratitude knows no bounds.

Barbara Beckley
Artistic Director


Sandra Kay Beckley   Brad Brown   Brooks Gardner & Burbank High School
David Carpenter   Luke Moyer   Chris Osborne   Alex Rapport
      Deborah Shulman   Wadler Data Systems   Phil Torf & House of Props
Glen Treibitz & Hollywood Piano