ACT 1. On the morning of April 3rd 1968, a young preacher from Atlanta prepares for a journey to Memphis, Tennessee to join striking sanitation workers. During the night he has experienced a recurring dream – one that is a disconcerting mix of reminiscence and premonition. Always, at the center of the dream, is the image of a balcony that has about it a strange sense of foreboding, and destiny, and a moment he knows he is not yet ready to face, but cannot yet explain, or see beyond.

As he sets out on his journey to Memphis, boarding a flight from Atlanta’s busy airport with his close friend and confidant, he begins to reflect on episodes of his life, searching for meaning to his dreams…

First, he remembers the harsh personal experience of racism and segregation in the community of his childhood, his dear maternal Grandmother, and the promise he made to her at her deathbed that set his life upon its present course – his promise to love.

Later on his journey, his thoughts return to Boston University, the place where he first articulated his unsophisticated ‘love answer’ to the persecution and injustice he perceived in the world. It was also where he met the woman who would become his wife, and would set out with him on a life adventure that took them to Montgomery, Alabama where, together, they would play a vital role in the 1955 bus boycott that changed the law.

ACT 2. Success in Montgomery marks the beginning of a freedom revolution the young preacher is chosen to lead. But leadership has its cost and consequences, for him and also for his wife who, though representing much of the strength of his life, faces her own challenges raising their young family while her husband is often away from home. Street by street, city by city, he marched side by side with others committed to seeing communities all across America experience freedom for themselves.

Though he began to focus on winning political success at a national level in Washington DC, most victories were hard-won on streets, and in jail cells throughout the South. There were significant times when he was vilified and celebrated. There were struggles around him, war within him, and loneliness and despair along the way from Birmingham to Selma. Eventually, the brave stand he inspired the people to take in Selma led to the enactment of voting rights legislation in 1965, that changed the course of modern American history.

He remembers this kaleidoscope of events as he arrives in Memphis, most poignantly on the morning after he makes, perhaps, the most emotionally draining speech of his life. Finally, just thirty-six hours after he set out from home, he sits alone at the edge of his bed in a motel room – late in the afternoon of April 4th. He knows that outside his room door waits the balcony of his recurring dreams. Dream has become reality and the moment of dream images is now the moment at hand.


As the trip to Memphis continues, Martin relives the most significant times he was celebrated and vilified — the struggles around him — the war within him and the loneliness and despair he often felt.  His thoughts take him from Birmingham to Selma where he led the people to take a stand and enact voting rights legislation that changed the course of American history. He remembers this kaleidoscope of events as he arrives in Memphis, where he would make the most poignant and emotionally draining speech of his life.

Just 36 hours after leaving home, he sits alone at the edge of his bed in a lonely motel room. He knows that outside his room is the balcony of his recurring dream.  The Dream has become reality; the moment he has seen in dream images is now the moment at hand.

Artistic Statement by Douglas Tappin

Artistic Statement by Douglas Tappin, composer/librettist of I Dream

I wrote and composed the Libretto and Score of I Dream while living in Atlanta, reading accounts of the Civil Rights Movement, and talking to many individuals who had been a part of it, including members of Dr. King’s family, and some of his closest friends. The experience was so visceral, so profound that I felt, literally, compelled to tell the story – one of the greatest stories in human history and, more particularly, a great American story of recent history. I needed all my resources as a musical-dramatic writer to set it as a Rhythm and Blues Opera…I am using that term partly because that is what I set out to do, and also because I appreciate the need to label something, to define it, even though it is just seamless story-telling, using music and drama combined.

At the core of the story is a plight that is one of injustice – the plight of the poor, the needy, the orphaned, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the stranger, the captive, the hated one, the ones who are persecuted. But the most remarkable thing about the story is the way some people chose to confront that plight – with love. And not just a theoretical concept of love, but love that was expressed in a strong, practical way.

The focus of I Dream is the thirty-six hours leading up to Dr. King’s assassination on April 4th 1968 and a series of dreams, reminiscence, and premonitions in respect of his life leading up to that point and beyond, right to the fateful moment on the balcony of Memphis’ Lorraine Motel. It is an exploration and poetic interpretation of the villain and the hero within the heart, humanity and façade of a man.

I Dream is a musical-dramatic work that effectively bridges classical and popular traditions in its writing, composition and orchestration:

In the Classical Tradition – an Orchestra of 35 musicians; the realism of Verismo with a primacy of dramatic purpose; on the scale of Grand Opera – a prioritization of immense production values and tremendous music, a strong sense of contemporary relevance, a vast cast, a significant movement and dance aspect, heroic confrontations, opulent duets, and weighty choruses; through-composed – each scene flowing evenly and naturally into the next, blending recitative, aria and arioso, establishing, developing and resolving themes and motifs; and appropriately featuring full vocal ranges.

In the Popular Tradition – 21st Century Artistic and Theatrical sensibilities and consciousness as to structure and duration; written in English with some dialogue; popular, relevant, accessible and universal subject-matter; familiar song, melodic, and rhythmic forms; a fusion of contemporary, gospel, soul, spiritual, blues and jazz styles; Rhythm and Blues instrumentation (featuring piano, Hammond B-3, lead, acoustic and bass guitars, and drums) and a contemporary sense of pace, relentlessly moving towards an escalated conclusion.

I set out to create something artistically excellent: musically, lyrically and as a matter of production – and something entertaining: a powerful, moving operatic experience that is definitive, memorable, and enduring. Additionally, I wrote and composed I Dream to honor the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movement he inspired, to unite diverse individuals and institutions in understanding the prophetic message of Dr. King and, by remembering Dr. King’s dream in the midst of contemporary culture, to inspire those who experience I Dream to live that dream…by loving as Dr. King did.

Meet the Composer

Douglas Tappin

Douglas Tappin is a writer and composer who was born and educated in the United Kingdom. A former Commercial Attorney and member of the Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, he practiced as a Barrister in England for eleven years. Tappin earned an additional postgraduate degree from Atlanta’s McAfee School of Theology, culminating in the dissertation That There Might Be Inspiration – a critical examination and articulation of transformative music-drama, including through the historical and contemporary works of Handel, Wagner, Puccini, Sondheim, Lloyd Webber and Rice, Boublil and Schönberg.

Tappin’s unique approach to writing and composition is full of innovation and authenticity, arising from his inquiring, analytical mind, literary background and gifted musicianship that has included work in collaboration with Greg Phillinganes (musical director for Stevie Wonder and the late Michael Jackson) and Grammy nominated orchestrator Carl Marsh.

Tappin has also written and composed seven other significant musical-dramatic works, and lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and two children.


Douglas Tappin

I Dream is presented under license from Musical-Dramatic Arts, Inc.

James Meena


Tom Diamond


Michael Baumgarten

Lighting and Projection Designer

Kevin Depinet

Original Scenery Designer

Emilio Sosa

Original Costume Designer

Martha Ruskai

Wig and Makeup Designer

Naimah Kisoki

Movement Coach

Valerie Wheeler

Production Stage Manager

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