Private Project

The Hyers Sisters' Dream & Legacy

The Hyers Sisters' Dream & Legacy (mins. 33, HD 16:9 )
(c) 2019 Susheel Bibbs & M.E.P. Productions/DKC

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In the perilous 1870's and 80's, The Hyers Sisters (popular African-American, touring-opera prodigies) left their dream of opera stardom and stood up for the dignity of their people to become Voices for Freedom -- changing minds and hearts, introducing the first black leading players to operatic audiences, and creating the first AMERICAN musicals.

This colorful film completes Susheel Bibbs' Voices for Freedom series of short films on the Hyers Sisters, which have already won 8 international film-festival awards and a 2018 Telly. This film stands independently and offers its own uniqueness.

General Description:
In 1876, when minstrels in black-face ridiculed African-Americans across the land and the Hyers (the first female African-American touring-opera stars) were at the height of their operatic acclaim, the young stars, products of California civil-rights communities, decided to stand up for the dignity of their people. They left their dream of operatic stardom and created endearing music-dramatic works, focused on black dignity and quests for freedom and toured them for their audiences across the Land.

These works offered the first black leading players in mainstream U.S. Music Theater, and later were called the first AMERICAN musicals. They also changed minds and hearts about African Americans for 20 years and influenced the musicals to come. Yet The Hyers have remained unsung -- until now.

Hosted by international super star of opera Denyce Graves, the film features other internationally renowned singers. To celebrate the Hyers dream and accomplishments, the story of the Hyers is laced with performances of opera, spirituals, music from their musicals, hip-hop poetry, and dance along with enactments, narration, and commentary.

The Hyers' story shows that we all can achieve success with courage even when tempering our dreams with our values. Using re-enactments, narration, photo montage, expert commentary, and hidden history, this film also sheds light upon the social struggles of our day and the importance of community support..

  • Susheel Bibbs
    Meet Mary Pleasant, Mother of Civil Rights in CA, the Legacy of Mary Ellen Pleasant, Voices for Freedom: The Hyers Sisters' Legacy (26min, 30min), An Unsung Muse -- Classical Song of Black Composers, ZOOM (PBS)
  • Susheel Bibbs
  • Susheel Bibbs
  • Denyce Graves-Montgomery
    Key Cast
    Metropolitan Opera, PBS specials
  • Hope Briggs
    Key Cast
    "Emma Hyers"
    International soprano
  • Shawnette Sulker
    Key Cast
    "Anna Hyers"
    International soprano
  • WolfHawkJaguar
    Key Cast
    "Hip Hop poet"
    world music-hip hop artist
  • Susheel Bibbs
    Key Cast
    "Delilah Beasley"
    Meet Mary Pleasant, The Legacy of Mary Ellen Pleasant, An Unsung Muse, Voices for Freedom: The Hyers Sisters' Legacy, Teacher, Lester Bit Me (animated voice)
  • Robert Sims
    Key Cast
    "The Preacher, Old Uncle Eph"
    Masters of the Spiritual, Robert Schuller's Hour of Power, Mormon Tabernacle Choir Specials
  • Tichina Vaughn
    Key Cast
    "Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield"
    Stuttgart, Dresden, and Metropolitan Operas
  • Omari Tau
    Key Cast
    "Lucas, Prince, Peculiar Sam"
    Lion King
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Music Theater, Opera, African American History, American History
  • Runtime:
    33 minutes 5 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 17, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    102,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital HD - Widescreen 360
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Film encompasses and extends one that is a winner of 8 international awards and a Telly.
    New York
    United States
    February 21, 2021
    The American Filmatic Arts Awards
    Best Short Historical Documentary
  • The Oakland International Independent Film Festival
    United States
    October 24, 2020
    North American Premiere
  • The Olympus Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    United States
    NA - competition
    Best Short Documentary
  • Pan African Film Festival
    United States
    March 1, 2021
Distribution Information
  • M.E.P. Productions/DKC
    Country: United States
    Rights: All Rights, Video on Demand
Director Biography - Susheel Bibbs

Independent filmmaker/singer/actress Susheel Bibbs holds advanced degrees in Communications, Opera, and Vocal Performance. She has served the Arts and the Humanities for over 30 years. An acclaimed classical singer, national Emmy winner, and once the youngest Executive Producer in the PBS system for a major international series, Bibbs as an independent film producer has recently secured 16 international film-festival & 2 Telly awards -- two of them for Best Director of a Documentary. Since 2017 and continuing to this day, her shorter Hyers film and one on Mary Pleasant have been broadcast on PBS. Bibbs recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquis Who's Who Among American Women and a profile on PBS Arts Showcase.
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Director Statement

My interest has always been unfolding hidden history in my films, and I'm so pleased to complete my focus onshort films on The Hyers Sisters with The Hyers Sisters' Dream and Legacy.

In the 1870's Anna and Emma Hyers --known popularly as the Hyers Sisters held a dream of international operatic stardom. However, in 1876, the young Sisters decided to use their mainstream operatic popularity to stand up against the ridicule of their people by hugely popular touring minstrels in black face.As things worsened socially for their people, the Hyers left their dream of operatic stardom to create works that focused on African-American dignity and quest for freedom. In so doing, they modeled the courage of convictions that is always needed today. Their works became hugely popular among white and black audiences for 20 years.

Most importantly, they changed and inspired many minds and hearts, and these music-dramatic works, which they popularized across the Land, offered the first black leading players in mainstream American Music Theater, the first integrated casting, and what we now call the FIRST AMERICAN MUSICALS.

Their forgotten legacy is important to us today, and this film reveals their hidden history and holds inspiration for us all. It also entertains with performances from opera, spirituals, music theater, hip-hop poetry, and dance along with enactments, narration, and commentary, Socially, the film uniquely focuses on role models and the power of community support -- something that we all need. Universally, it shows that we all can achieve success even while tempering our dreams with our values. The film relates to our needs and social struggles.

I hope you will want to include it for your audiences in your festival. Thanks for considering The Hyers Sisters' Dream and Legacy.