On the morning of April 3, 1968, Martin prepares for a journey to Memphis to join striking sanitation workers in their protest for an improvement in their pay, treatment and working conditions. The night before he had a disturbing dream of a man who doesn’t retaliate even when viciously attacked. The image of a balcony — with a strange sense of destiny – dominates the dream, and a moment he knows he is not ready to face, but can’t explain, or see beyond.

As Martin and Ralph leave for the airport he begins to reflect on episodes of his life and searching for meaning to his dream. He starts with the early years of his story, remembering the harsh racism and segregation in the community of his childhood, his dear grandmother and the promise he made to her at her deathbed. It was a promise to love, one that set his life upon its present course.

His thoughts return to Boston University, the place where he formed his “love answer” to the persecution and injustice he saw. It was also the place he enjoyed the taste of freedom and met Coretta, the woman who would become his life partner. She would set out with him on a life adventure that first took them to Montgomery, Alabama where they would play a vital role in the 1955 bus boycott that began to change a nation.

As he continues his practical application of love to America’s social ills, he challenges the status quo, beginning a freedom revolution. Side by side, Martin, Coretta and Ralph march, facing stern and sometimes violent opposition, and eventually winning political success in Washington D.C.


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 Kioski

Movement Coach

Valerie Wheeler

Production Stage Manager

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