Activist Blog: “We All Have Learning to Do”

by Abby Nordan

Boston Children's Choir performing in I Am A Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams. Photo by Kathy Wittman/Ball Square Films
Members of the Boston Children’s Chorus sing the “Pledge of Allegiance” during I Am A Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams. Photo by Kathy Wittman/Ball Square Films.

I can’t think of any recent moment in which I have been more moved than I was while watching the premiere of I Am A Dreamer Who No Longer Dreams. It was truly a masterpiece; a work that was eye-opening and intimate in addition to its unquestionable beauty. Upon leaving, I felt shaken by its tragedy, but also empowered by its delivery, especially since it was done with a brilliant all-female cast. Its characters are complex and captivating, and the opera tugs at one’s heartstrings not only with its message, but also with the richness of its story. 

The opera began with the voices of the Boston Children’s Chorus (BCC), and they won me over immediately⁠—and not just because I’m biased as a member of BCC myself! They sang with professionalism and sophistication far beyond their years and, as they took their places at cafeteria tables far upstage between their interludes, created an eerie image that parallels the headlines we see today about immigrant children being detained at the border. Their singing was as haunting as it was beautiful (I think particularly of their chilling rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance and a few plays on lines from West Side Story). Characters Rosa (Carla López-Speziale) and Singa (Helen Zhibing Huang) embark on a remarkably raw and honest journey from stiff strangers to empathetic, trusting friends, demonstrating that it is imperative that we acknowledge and value our differences. I was blown away by the three roles played by soprano Kirsten Chambers⁠—Mother, Gangster, and Prosecutor⁠—and the vast emotional complexity that each character added to the opera, showing the audience that we all have something in common⁠—no matter how good or bad we may seem on the surface, all most people want is to do the right thing. My heart nearly burst with excitement and pride when I saw BCC’s soloists take the stage as Child Rosa (Isis Contreras Perez) and Child Singa (Amy Li)⁠—I know them not only as fantastic musicians, but also as my friends and classmates. Seeing them take on challenging characters with heavy storylines was profoundly moving.

In fact, I think that gets to the heart of what Dreamer achieves. It’s one thing to hear about the tragedies immigrants face when it’s coming from a stranger you see reporting the news. But when those same things are told to you in such an intimate and personal environment like the one Dreamer creates, they become easier to understand and feel. Dreamer educates its audiences through art, which is, in my opinion, one of the best and most efficient ways to learn about social issues. Dreamer does not scold its audience for being uninformed or ignorant, it instead invites them to learn with the show, recognizing that we all have learning to do. 

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