Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. changed the course of American history and remains one of the country’s most revered and iconic leaders. Set over the final 36 hours of Dr. King’s life, I Dream celebrates the man, his struggles and the movement he championed.

This very human story looks back on the early days of the movement that would reshape America and transform the preacher from Atlanta into an American icon. I Dream, a musical drama by Douglas Tappin, honors the man and who became almost mythical in his pursuit of a dream.


On the morning of April 3, 1968, a young preacher from Atlanta prepares for a journey to Memphis, Tennessee to join striking sanitation workers. He’s had  a recurring and disconcerting dream – one that’s part memory and part premonition. Always, at the center of the dream, is the image of a balcony that has a strange sense of foreboding. And, there’s destiny in the form of a moment he knows he’s not ready to face, but cannot explain or see beyond.

As he sets out for Memphis from Atlanta , he begins to reflect on 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, 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.


Success in Montgomery marks the beginning of a freedom revolution the young preacher is chosen to lead. But leadership has its consequences, for him and his wife who faces her own challenges raising their young family while her husband is often away. 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, most victories were hard-won on streets and in jail cells throughout the South. There were times he was vilified and times he was 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 voting rights legislation in 1965.

He remembers this kaleidoscope of events as he arrives in Memphis, most poignantly on the morning after he makes the most emotionally draining speech of his life. Finally, just 36 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 4. He knows that outside his room door waits the balcony of his recurring dreams.

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 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… 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 36 hours leading up to Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 and a series of dreams, reminiscences and premonitions … leading up to that … fateful moment on the balcony of Memphis’ Lorraine Motel. It is an exploration, challenge and poetic interpretation of the villain and the hero within … a man.

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

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 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 (Composer and Librettist) 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 is currently writing and composing Becoming Othello, based on Paul Robeson’s year playing Othello at London’s Savoy Theatre, in 1930. Tappin has also written and composed six other significant musical-dramatic works including DelivererDiva, and 2042.

Tappin 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


Keith Williams


Tom Diamond


Emily Jarrell Urbanek

Director of Music Preparation

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