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Who Gave You Breath And Imagination?

Thank you for attending Breath & Imagination! Roland Hayes was influenced and inspired by his parents and teachers encouraging him to be true to himself as an artist. This kind of mentor-ship can be found within our communities but rarely gets the spotlight of more formal institution-based education.  These individuals find ways to unlock the potential in our youth and challenge the barriers of self-doubt and socio-economic limitations.


We want to take this opportunity to recognize the people in our lives that allow us to move to a place of breath and imagination. Tell us the story of the person that helped shape you – whether in your classroom, in your church, in your neighborhood – shout them out in the comments.



  1. Julia ProppJanuary 29, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Dr. John Taylor at Adams State College: Thank you for teaching me strength, breath, imagination and how to create your own opportunities (along with the importance of having a corgi).

  2. When I watch that scene in the show where Mr. Calhoun comes back, I always think about Mr. Lorin Hunt, my high school choir teacher. If I could have a scene like that with Hunt today, I would want to let him know that everything I became stems directly from the moment he first reached out and grabbed a drifting teenager, a newcomer to Maple Grove High School, and basically forced me to sing. I’ve lived a life filled with an astonishing number of mentors and touched with the grace of ancestors who came before me (like my grandfather, who played many instruments including the flute and the bagpipes, painted, made model-sized and life sized double-masted schooners by hand). So this show resonates for me on many levels. But it is Lorin Hunt who “went in” on me in the same manner that Calhoun does here, and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

  3. The show was FANTASTIC, I think everyone did a great job and the singing was so moving for me. Very well done !!

  4. Teachers and other mentors have given me validation, support and pushed me throughout my life. I remember Mrs. Cliff from the first grade who taught me how to read and, with my mother, instilled a life-long love of reading. Mrs. Burnett, Mrs. Hicks from elementary school were positive role models. In High school there was an American Studies teacher whose name I’ve forgotten but who challenged me to analyse things that were going on in society for women’s right, Civil Rights, the Vietnam, War, etc. He lifted the last veils of childhood from my eyes. I also remember fondly our first Black Studies teacher, James Harrod, who a group of students demanded be hired.
    I so enjoyed Breath & Imagination and the previous productions I’ve attended. I look forward to other Arts Emerson productions.

  5. Paul and Linda RenziFebruary 2, 2015 at 10:16 am

    We walked away so amazed at the talent and the pure heart of Breath and Imagination. We both teach and were introduced to the magnificent talent of Roland Hayes at a workshop given at Symphony Hall years ago. The cast was the best. We went from laughter to tears to thankfulness that we got to celebrate Langston Hughes birthday with a theater full of like-minded people.

  6. Dr. Bonnie Bishoff is my mentor, yes, but much more than that, she is my friend. Bonnie retired from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts a few years ago, and all of her “kids” returned for her party, to celebrate and let her know that her print on our hearts is what has kept us all going. Bonnie was a Theatre professor teaching majors and non-majors alike, which speaks to how the access she gave us wasn’t about becoming Theatre professionals, but thinking, feeling, humans who could understand what Theatre can do. Bonnie helped us understand who we were and where we were going once we left the safety of our blackbox classroom. She has a unique gift to see each person as they are, where they are, and help them know that they are supremely perfect. She has given me abundant gifts that go so far beyond the stage. I can say without the shadow of a doubt that my life would be empty and gray without her influence.

  7. Jan KinasewichFebruary 3, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Roland Hayes’s music has been in my life for many years thanks to my father’s appreciation of him. This was a spectacular tribute to him. Elijah Rock was mesmerizing, and Harriett Foy and Nehal Joshi were both excellent. It was a beautiful show, just bursting with music. And Elijah’s voice was beautiful. What a great show!

  8. Roger HouseFebruary 5, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    This was a wonderful story about a truly remarkable concert singer. Mr. Rock’s performance was warm, smart and moving. Ditto for Ms. Foy and Mr. Joshi. Together they resurrected the ideal of Roland Hayes — “I Can Tell the World.”

    I think it appropriate that next door to Breath & Imagination was the play about Motown records. The combination gave Boston audiences poignant examples of the influence of black artists in U.S. culture both “high-brow” and “low-brow.”

  9. Suzanna SchellFebruary 6, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Saw “Breath & Imagination” last night. What an inspiring show!
    Superb performances by all three actors, but the highlight was the gorgeous, heartfelt singing, especially Elijah Rock. He has a beautiful voice. Roland Hayes belief in his God-given talent in the face of such racism paved the way for so many others. I’m so glad he didn’t give. He was a true artist. I went out in the cold night filled with the music and then went home and listened to Roland Hayes recordings online.

  10. LOVED the show…the push and pull of the mother, the elegant simplicity of the set, the flow of the story advanced through amazing song and piano playing, the mutiple characters played by one persuasive actor and the strong heartfelt performances of the lead actor and the mother. In addition I learned some history I had not known before. Fabulous singing, piano playing and acting. I also really appreciated not having an intermission. The pace and length were just right!

  11. Judith MorrisFebruary 16, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    I was deeply moved and utterly delighted by Breath and Imagination. I have 2 racially mixed (Black and white) daughters, one of whom is an Classical music singer, both of whom inherited a passionate love of many kinds of music from both their parents. The show brought back many memories and elicited much emotion related to music, racism, perseverance in the face of prejudice, and love between family members despite different beliefs and aspirations. The performances were stellar. Everyone should see this show! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!


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