Jan 27 - Feb 08, 2015

Before there was Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson, there was Roland Hayes – the first world-renowned African-American classical vocalist. Born the son of a slave in Georgia, Roland discovered his voice as a young boy singing spirituals in church. Breath & Imagination is a musical play that renders the life of his amazing journey of this pioneer from the plantation in Georgia to singing before kings and queens in Europe and becoming the first African-American soloist to perform with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Employing spirituals and classical music, Breath & Imagination is an inspirational exploration of one man’s determination to be an artist despite seemingly insurmountable odds. Created by celebrated artist Daniel Beaty (Emergency) and starring award-winning actor Elijah Rock— reprising his role as Roland Hayes for which he received the NAACP Theatre Award for Best Performer in 2014.

"Run until you are out of breath to catch a performance of this life-changing production...It will put a song in your heart and a spring in your step, as well as a fire in your soul." — The White Rhino Report


Daniel Beaty 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 Theater Awards. Beaty has worked throughout the U.S., Europe, and Africa speaking and performing on programs with luminaries such as Deepak Chopra, Hill Harper, Jill Scott, Donnie McClurkin, and Ruby Dee. 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 BA with Honors in English and Music from Yale University and an MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theatre. His poem Knock Knock became 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 published his empowerment book Transforming Pain to Power in March 2014. Follow Daniel's work at www.DanielBeaty.com and Twitter @DanielBBeaty



Afrocentric Voices chronicles the life of the world-renowned opera singer
Click Here


Boston Symphony Orchestra's archival list of Roland Hayes' performances at Boston Symphony Hall
Click Here



  • Location: Emerson/Paramount Center Mainstage
  • Created: Daniel Beaty
  • Directed by: David Dower
  • Produced by: ArtsEmerson
  • Ages: 12+
  • Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission