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DREAM BABIES – THE MUSICAL
DREAM BABIES is a powerful musical about the teenagers of St. Mary’s Home for Girls & St. John’s Home for Boys, who share their joys and growing pains while attending Royal Academy, a Charter School in Brooklyn, NY.
DREAM BABIES is a testimony to the faith and determination of these teenagers to make it in life against all odds with the loving support of their teachers, counselors and friends.
At its best, theater can change lives, both of those onstage and those in the seats. But sometimes it also aims to change the lives of people who haven’t even set foot inside a theater, as is the case with Van Dirk Fisher’s new musical, Dream Babies.
In 2009, Fisher was invited to attend a consortium at the Jewish Child Care Association. His intent was to explore the possibility of offering playwriting as a tool to improve students’ literacy … but as he heard about the difficulties of providing services to the teenagers living in foster care and group homes, along with the red tape administrators faced in obtaining funds to help them once they age out of the program, Fisher sensed the insignificance of his intended contribution. “I started thinking about what I could do to help bring attention to their problems, and to raise money for scholarships for teenagers planning to enroll in college,” he says. “I did a lot of research and spoke to several teenagers living in group homes, and decided to write a musical about their plight.”
Dream Babies focuses on the teenagers who live in two fictional group homes across the street from each other in Brooklyn and who attend the same charter high school. As the action unfolds, we are let in on their fears and aspirations and share in their growing pains. We also grow to appreciate the dedicated directors and staff of the group homes and teachers at the school, all of whom provide unconditional love and a firm, guiding hand for their charges.
While some of the teenagers in the play long to be reunited with their birth mothers and others want nothing to do with them, the common thread is a desire for love, Fisher points out. “School and the group homes play an important part in their lives, and the support system they form is really like an extended family. While the students all acknowledge that they have problems, the main thing is how they choose to deal with them … and knowing that they are not alone.”
The musical has been evolving through two previous workshops and a concert presentation. The current production is being directed by Mr. Fisher and the musical numbers are being staged and choreographed by David Robertson, who worked with Fisher on the musicals Sweet Blessings and Rock-a My Soul. (Robertson’s experience has also included assisting the renowned choreographers Debbie Allen and Michael Peters.) Fisher sees their work together as a true collaboration. “I really wanted David to think about what he wanted, so I opened myself up to change locations to suit his vision,” he says.
A case in point is the musical number “Deja Vu,” originally set in a French class. “In the play, the students are getting ready to rehearse a number they are going to perform in a show at school,” observes Robertson. “I said to Van, ‘Where’s the number that they are going to be performing? We haven’t rehearsed or seen it.’ So that particular song became one of the numbers the students are working on, and it now takes place in a dance studio.” Robertson also notes that several characters have been eliminated along the way, creating a tighter focus for the action.
Fisher says he immediately knew that set designer Jung Griffin understood the inspirational spirit of the play when she first showed him sketches bright with the colors of classrooms and cafeterias. “Yet in the middle of the stage,” he says, “which sometimes serves as the street, there is a stark contrast, where things can get very dark and frightening. Just like life, the world outside that safe haven we know as home can prove dangerous.”
That meeting at the Jewish Child Care Association changed my life and my mission,” sums up Fisher, who also created the Riant Theater’s Youth Empowerment Awards program to provide internships and mentoring for students, along with stipends and scholarships for those going on to college. “It’s all about service, and giving back. If I can put the spotlight on youth living in foster care and raise money to help them, then I’ve done my job.”
Dreaming Up Dream Babies – By Jane Rubinsky
DREAM BABIES, The Musical
Featuring: Manuel Cortes Alcazar, Dante Brattelli, Herby Richard Cela, Jarvis Chapman, Holly Griffin, Kate Elysia Hultgren, Sahra Jo, Laura Kate Johnson, Heather Ashley Kramer, Dorothy Leigh, Daejanae Lettman, Frank Matejcek, Bri Molloy, Vincent Parker, Traci Robinson, Quashaea Rogers, Sherman Rogers, Rodney Singleton, Skyler Watersend, Chantelle Vienneau and Kaleigh Kay Wright.
Book, Music & Lyrics By Van Dirk Fisher
Directed by Van Dirk Fisher
Musical Director, Rob Keiser
Choreography by David Robertson
Set Design by Jung Griffin
Lighting Design by Zach Pizza
Assistant Director: David Robertson
Stage Manager: Rachel Roxie Kooi
Assistant Stage Manager: Joyce Pena
Now playing through August 26, 2012
at the Theatre at St. Clements
423 West 46th Street, NYC
Between 9th & 10th Avenue
Tuesdays at 7pm
Wednesdays at 2pm
Friday & Saturday at 8pm
Sunday at 3pm & 8pm
Press Contact: Kevin Hansen