Last month, the Foundation Trust sponsored a student event at our partner the Greater Boston Stage Company. Over 300 students from Everett High School, Boston College High School, Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, CityLab Innovation High School, EPN/Grace Church School (New York, NY), and Arkansas Middle School (Little Rock, AR) were able to attend a matinee performance of the new play Boulevard of Bold Dreams by writer LaDarrion Williams.
The three-character play, directed by Taavon Gamble, is set on the evening of February 29, 1940 when Hattie McDaniel won the Academy Award for best supporting actress for her performance as “Mammy” in Gone with the Wind, becoming the first Black actor to have been nominated for, or to win, an Oscar. Boulevard of Bold Dreams imagines McDaniel just prior to her win, taking refuge from the press in the Ambassador Hotel lounge where she meets two Black employees, each with their own Hollywood dreams. The play addresses the racism that permeated the motion picture industry in the 1940s as well as the social dissonance surrounding McDaniel’s win, which was both lauded as a cultural triumph and criticized as a perpetuation of Black stereotypes in America.
Following the performance, the students participated in a talk back with the actors and crew, and were able to ask questions directly to the performers about the production and the technical aspects of a live theatrical event.
Bryan Miner, Manager of Public relations and Sales at the Greater Boston Stage Company, says, “It was such a wonderful, thought-provoking discussion. Everyone got something out of it! We are so lucky to have the continued support of the Foundation Trust and look forward to welcoming even more students in the future!”
Adds Janelle Johnson, Ph.D., Managing Director of the Foundation Trust, “It was thrilling to witness so many students actively and enthusiastically engaging this material. For some, it was undoubtedly their first opportunity to attend live and in-person professional theatre. They watched this innovative and poignant multimedia theatrical production of Boulevard with rapt attention. During the talkback, students posed earnest and thoughtful questions to the actors about their emotional experience taking on the powerful characters depicted in the play, as well as their strategies to prepare to deliver the material and to navigate subtle mistakes and unexpected occurrences during each live rendition. Students likewise posed intriguing questions to the crew about choices made in set design and special effects.”
Concludes Joseph Spinazzola Ph.D., Executive Director of the Foundation Trust, “Whenever we have the opportunity to support an immersive community experience that spans all four of our tracks, that is a real win for our foundation, and Boulevard of Bold Dreams accomplished just that. Its subject matter challenges and seeks to overcome systemic trauma and racial oppression in our history and in our hearts. Through special student performances and talkbacks, it invites diverse youth living within society steeped in school and community violence to engage in dialogue and reflection on these vital topics. Through GBSC’s matinee program, it enhances community engagement and decreases isolation for valued seniors, elders, and adults in our community, many of whom are living with chronic health conditions. Lastly, it advances inclusivity in the arts by showcasing the voices of contemporary BIPOC playwrights, actors, and directors. We could not be happier with how this year’s expression of the Giving Voice series at Greater Boston Stage Company turned out, and look forward to the upcoming final year in this exciting and important series.”
To learn more about the Foundation Trust, whose mission includes promoting opportunities for underrepresented artists, visit www.foundationtrust.org.