World premiere of opera about Dr. Martin Luther King in Toledo this week

Published: Apr. 4, 2018 at 5:05 PM EDT
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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. He was murdered during a trip to Memphis in 1968.

Dr. King made a trip to Toledo just months before he was killed. He spoke at Scott High School in September 1967.

Dr. King's life is being celebrated on stage and it's making its world debut here in Toledo. An opera focusing on the final hours of his life will take center stage at The Valentine Theater.

The seats at The Valentine will be full as more than 700 local students watch a dress rehearsal for I DREAM on Wednesday night, "This is something we can't stop talking about and this place is a great way to continue that conversation."

Douglas Tappin is the composer of I DREAM. He was born in London and now lives in Atlanta. He calls it a rhythm and blues opera, "I first started working in the show in 2006, and it has changed a lot since then.It is not a history lesson or a documentary. It is the poetic re-telling of an important aspect of American history."

The focus of the opera is the last 36 hours of Dr. King's life, "Any chance to look back and remember things men women and children have done to make our lives and their lives better is a good thing."

Dozens of the students who will be at tonight's performance are part of the youth program at the YWCA of northwest Ohio. Penny Tullis is the Youth Development Director at the YWCA, "Our program focuses on community service learning and part of that is civic engagement. Many of our kids are passionate about social justice and advocacy."

Tullis says the show is a great way to motivate the students to continue the work of Dr, King, "I think hearing about it in school and learning about Dr. King is one thing, but seeing it brought to life on stage I think that will inspire them in a new way."

While the show looks back at America's past, Tappin hopes it helps influence our future, "I hope it is an incredible theatrical experience for people that moves them deeply and causes them to remember that period in history. I also hope it leads them to reflect on themselves and to look at some of the current issues in America and what the right way to respond to those issues may be."

While the dress rehearsal of the show Wednesday tonight is only for students, you have a chance to see the show later this week. I DREAM runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We've posted a link to the Toledo Opera website.

There will be a youth forum on the I DREAM opera here in Toledo. It will be Monday, April 9th at the YWCA on Jefferson Avenue in downtown Toledo. It runs from 3:30-5pm. It's open to any student who attends the opera. The students can also bring a parent or a chaperon.