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Written by Nambi E. Kelley

Produced by First Woman

From New York, New York

Jayden is stuck in detention with a book about Congressman John Lewis, but he thinks that history has nothing to teach him. Together we go on a musical journey through the decades that shows how the heroes in the Civil Rights movement inspired young John Lewis to protest injustice and get into ‘good trouble.’


As a boy, John dreams of being a preacher who can help others. While he doesn’t have a congregation yet, he does have a loyal group of singing chickens that listen to him as he finds his voice. On a harrowing road trip through the South, John’s eyes and mind are opened to the injustices of segregation and racism, inspiring him to take action. As John meets Rosa Parks and Dr. King and ultimately becomes a leader and American hero himself, Jayden learns how he too can take a stand.


From the same creative team as JABARI DREAMS OF FREEDOM, including playwright Nambi E. Kelley and music and lyrics by Joe Plummer, this new musical production was commissioned by Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's Gallery of Heroes Program . The national touring production is supported by Development Partner The Center at Governor State University in University Park, IL. 

About the Company

Best for: Grades 3rd-6th (8-11 years)

Audience Size: Small, Medium, & Large Venues


Behind the Scenes Interview

with playwright Nambi E. Kelley and team.

Curriculum Connections

  • Fine Arts: Performance, Technology and Multi-media Design, Music - Traditional Negro Spiritual Songs and Freedom Songs

  • History & Social Studies: American History, Civil Rights, African American Leaders

  • Emotional/Social Development: Self-Awareness, Social Awareness, Self-Management, Relationship Skills, Responsible Decision-Making; Discrimination; Honesty; Respect; Challenging Public Perception; Personal Politics; Empowerment; Empathy; Agency

Curriculum Connections

Outreach and Workshops



Living Book Workshop: HERO: The Boy From Troy, A New Musical About Young John Lewis unfolds through a living book. In this workshop, students will make books out of art supplies and construction paper, pinpointing key moments in their own lives that have shaped them into the people they are, the people they are becoming, and examine their biggest dreams. Then, the books will be shared with the class, and if time permits, the books created will be used to create dramatic interpretations of the work. Students will then get to perform in each of the stories as well as ask each other questions about their stories, getting to know each other and their place in their own modern world history.


Dream Freedom Songs Workshop: HERO: The Boy From Troy, A New Musical About Young John Lewis takes place during the Civil Rights Movement. In this workshop, students will be presented excerpts from the show, participate in Q&A’s about the show, then learn the freedom songs that are in the show. Participants will sing freedom songs, then create a song as a group about making dreams come true!


Tableaux Workshop: HERO: The Boy From Troy, A New Musical About Young John Lewis takes place during a time period when Young John Lewis was trying different things in life transforming into who he was destined to become. In this workshop students will use their bodies to create transformations from their favorite animal to people who inspire them. What are their qualities that you love? Are they kind, nervous, affectionate, needy, etc? This movement based workshop will culminate in a big dance party show and tell where participants show their work and dance together as John Lewis does with his chickens in the show.



Empathy Workshops: In HERO: The Boy From Troy, A New Musical About Young John Lewis, Young John Lewis is in a conversation with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In this community workshop, young people will interview older community members and vice versa to really get a full picture of what it is to walk in another person’s shoes. Then participants will use what they’ve learned from them to make up a story about taking a ride with them through a scary place. Let their stories be the words that help you through make it back home. Conversations and sharing will commence, including creating a short performance piece based on the interactions.

Workshop Ala Carte: John Lewis ultimately was a servant for the community. In this workshop, show creators will meet with the venues, teachers, community leaders, etc, to design a workshop specifically geared towards their community. What issues are happening in your community? Share with our artists what is an issue for you, and our team will design a workshop around whatever will best serve your population. This workshop can include, dance, writing, acting, designing, Civil Rights issues, etc, anything that will add value to your gatherings and promote creativity, dialogue, and fun.

Sensory Friendly Performances

HERO: THE BOY FROM TROY is available as a “sensory friendly” or “relaxed” performance if arranged with the company in advance and with specific direction as to what adjustments are necessary for your venue.

Minimum Technical Requirements

  • Load In Time:  4 hours (with pre-hang)

  • Crew Needs: minimum 2 crew for load in/load out; 2 crew to run sound/lights during show

  • Min. Stage Size: 20’ wide x 20’ deep x 10’ height,  4’ wing space on both sides

  • Load out time: 1 hour

  • In houses over 600 seats, sound support (3 wireless mics and transmitters) may be required

Minimum Tech
Artistic Team

Artistic Team

Daniel Carlton, director  

Nambi E. Kelley, book writer

Joe Plummer, lyrics and music

Leo Lei, projections designer

Cast: TBA

There will be 3 performers and 1 technician on the road.

This new musical production was commissioned by Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's Gallery of Heroes Program.

The national touring production is supported by Development Partner The Center at Governor State University in University Park, IL. 


“I was giving a tour of City to a group of Latinx kids who are our community partners and I asked if they ever saw a play before and a few raised their hand and said “I saw a play about John Lewis!!!” 💙💙💙 then one went on a monologue about separate but unequal. He was 6 years old. Your show is touching the masses!”  - Monteze Freeland, Co Artistic Director City Theatre, Pittsburgh

Critical Acclaim


"This was perfect for my students. It was engaging as well as historical." -5th Grade Teacher from Kalamazoo, MI


"Good amount of history interwoven into an entertaining, up-to-date format that my fifth grade students could relate to." -5th Grade Teacher from Kalamazoo, MI


"...seeing it through a young boy's eyes helped the students to understand and put themselves in his position." -5th Grade Teacher from Kalamazoo, MI


"I hope this experience will give my students permission to express themselves and address their feelings and emotions."  -5th Grade Teacher from Kalamazoo, MI

"I think it's very important to get children talking and learning about racism and what it entails, what it looked like in history and what it still looks like today.  If it's something they hear at home or with relatives, we can empower them to speak their minds and possibly help to educate their families.  They are also the future and hopefully they can continue to fight against racism and help it to banish it forever!!" -5th Grade Teacher from Kalamazoo, MI


"I was a bit nervous about tackling such a controversial topic (BLM) in my school. But having the support of EFA allowed us to have thoughtful lessons and discussions on this topic. Normally I don't hear much from families on the AE lessons but I wanted to pass along this message I received from one of my families regarding Jabari Dreams of Freedom. "Whoever came up with this did an amazing job - {my child} has been talking a lot about the aesthetic Ed and is excited for the trip. I believe more (and more accurate) education is key to ending systemic racism and this is a definite step in the right direction for our kids." -5th Grade Teacher from Kalamazoo, MI

Company Background

Past North American Tours include: JABARI DREAMS OF FREEDOM

About First Woman, LLC:
First Woman is a full service production company that develops and produces projects for television, film, stage, and work for young audiences. Named for the East African creation story from which her first name comes, founder Nambi E. Kelley is an award-winning playwright, actress, and screenwriter. Most recently, First Woman completed a second national tour of Jabari Dreams of Freedom after a successful inaugural tour culminated in New York on 42nd Street at the New Victory. First Woman’s inaugural production was the digital incarnate of Jabari which has been shown across the world in multiple film festivals garnering tremendous accolades and awards.
Learn more on their website here.

About Nambi E. Kelley:
Nambi's newly formed production company, FIRST WOMAN, produced  a digital and in person national tour of Nambi's young audiences' play, Jabari Dreams of Freedom, directed by Daniel Carlton. The in person tour recently premiered off-Broadway at the renowned New Victory Theatre on 42nd Street. The digital version of Jabari has been selected in several film festivals, including The National Black Theatre Film Festival in North Carolina, Golden Bee International Children's Film Festival, Black Panther International Film Festival in India,  and won BEST KIDS MOVIE at The ARFF Paris International Awards. Nambi served as a season 2 co-producer on Peacock's Bel Air. Previous television writing credits include: Lady In The Lake (Apple) Our Kind of People (Fox), and The Chi (Showtime). She is also in development with Lagralane on a film project TBA. Ms. Kelley is the recipient of the NNPN annual commission where her play, Re-Memori was just presented at WP's Pipeline Festival in New York City. She is also winner of The Prince Prize which grants $75,000 to Nambi and Court Theatre for a new play based on the life of the great Kwame Ture/Stokely Carmichael. Nambi was named a Dramatists Guild Foundation Fellow and New Victory LabWorks Fellow. She just completed a residency at New Victory Theatre through the LabWorks Program for BIPOC artists in New York City which gifted Nambi $15,000 to participate in workshops and develop her new musical for families based on the early life of Congressman John Lewis (a commission by Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera). Nambi's John Lewis musical, titled Hero: The Boy From Troy, A New Musical About Young John Lewis will tour regionally in early 2023. Nambi is a former playwright-in-residence at the National Black Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, and a former Dramatists Guild Fellow. She was a finalist for the Francesca Primus Award, and The Kevin Spacey Foundation Award. She was chosen by Tony Morrison to adapt Morrison’s Jazz, which premiered at Baltimore Center Stage in 2017. Her adaptation of Richard Wright's Native Son (Sam French, Concord Theatricals) premiered in New York produced by the The Acting Company at The Duke on 42nd Street in July 2019, and was nominated for New York's Drama League Awards, winning Best Production from the AUDELCO Awards. The world premiere of Native Son was presented to critical acclaim at Court Theatre, received nominations for 5 Jeff Awards including winning production of the year, and was the highest grossing straight play produced in Court Theatre's history. Shortlisted professional writing affiliations include: New Victory Playwright in Residence, National Black Theatre Playwright in Residence, Goodman Theatre Playwrights Unit, Steppenwolf Theatre Company New Plays Lab Playwright-In-Residence, Goodman Theatre/Ellen Stone Belic Institute/ Fellowship Recipient, Goodman Theatre Lila Wallace Fellowship, La MaMa Playwrights Symposium Playwright-In-Residence, Spoleto, Italy under the tutelage of Pulitzer prize winner Lynn Nottage, Ragdale Foundation Artist in Residence, HealthWorks Theatre Colonel Stanley McNeil Playwright-In-Residence, Chicago Dramatists Playwright Emeritus, Danny Glover’s Robey Theatre Co. Playwriting Lab (Formerly The Blacksmyths At The Mark Taper Forum), and MPAACT Playwright Emeritus, Chicago. Ms. Kelley has a BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul University, formerly known as The Goodman School of Drama, and holds an MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College in Vermont.

For more information, please visit Nambi’s website:

About Daniel Carlton:
Daniel Carlton, director Daniel Carlton is a multiple award winning Harlem based Actor, Storyteller, Playwright, Poet, Director, and Teaching Artist who has appeared on New York, national, and international stages. His work has also been presented in schools, jails, homeless shelters, libraries, and every imaginable place to perform. Recent Projects: Writer/Director of “March On” (Apollo Theater, National Black Theater Festival). Writer " Pigfoot Mary Says Goodbye To The Harlem Renaissance. ) Director of The National Tour of “Freedom Riders” ( Mad River Theater Works). Performing multiple characters in” Finding North'' by David Gonzalez ( National Tour) . Also developing from a commission ( Co Writer with Nambi E Kelley and Director ) of a new hybrid Digital and Live Play “This Ability" for Chicago Children’s Theatre. Writer/ Performer " Check Yo Invite" ( HarlemStage) “The Eagle in Harlem” , one of his storytelling shows for younger audiences , has been seen by thousands of school age children. Collaborator with Iquail Saheed of Dance Iquail on “ Public Enemy “ ( dramaturg and text) a developing dance piece based on the incarceration of young Black Men ( Spring 2022, Eastern State Penitentiary Site ,Philadelphia, and world tour)

For more information, please visit Daniel's website:

Productin History

Past Productions 

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