Dream Freedom Revival

The Dream Freedom Revival, or, “Dr. Reverend Ebenezer Abernathy’s Mellifluously, Melodious and Medicative Freedom Revival of Greater Central New York,” (DFR) is a character-driven, community-based musical theater project that is inspired in part by the Evangelical tent revivals that were prominent in Central New York in the 19th century. Grounded in theories about liberatory politics and grassroots performance, DFR was directed by IA’s Associate Director Kevin Bott and draws on this region’s history and legacy of freedom.

“The guiding ethos of the project is that democracy is driven by those who participate in it,” says Bott. “Our aim is to use popular performance to inspire and encourage a meaningful engagement with real-world issues in Syracuse and the Central New York region. My goal is that the many groups and individuals working on social and political issues see that performance can be used to bring more people directly into the conversations and activities they’re already undertaking.


DFR events feature a collectively-generated performance with original music, lyrics and dialogue. Bott plays a secular “preacher,” Dr. Ebenezer Abernathy, who travels Central New York to celebrate democracy and encourage local participation in the questions that affect the lives of residents. The DFR has become a collaborative, inclusive, and participatory political theater company comprised of a diverse group of campus and community stakeholders that includes local performers and activists, as well as undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty members from SU, Onondaga Community College, and SUNY Oswego. At the heart of the group is The Sound of Freedom, a 12 person choir backed by a 6-piece rock/reggae/pop/gospel/salsa/musical theater band.

The guiding ethos of the project is that democracy is driven by those who participate in it.


“The DFR is a unique opportunity to encourage innovation and integration of knowledge and creativity to identify and solve real-world problems through art and humanities,” says Eatman. “We aspire for the project to develop into a model of democratic publicly engaged scholarship and campus-community collaboration that can be a resource to IA’s national network.”