Theatre 202 and Dozo Drama to premiere groundbreaking new hip-hop musical

In the first production of its kind in DC, young performers are using 'Once Upon a Rhyme' as their contribution to gun violence prevention.

Theatre 202 and Dozo Drama proudly announce the world premiere of Once Upon a Rhyme, a groundbreaking hip-hop musical that brings together the vibrant talents of young performers from the heart of Washington, DC. This youth community theater production, the first of its kind in the nation’s capital, is made possible through generous funding from the DC Office of Gun Violence Prevention and Cardozo Education Campus.

In a significant nod to the cultural legacy of hip-hop, Once Upon a Rhyme coincides with the 50th anniversary of the influential genre. As the world celebrates this milestone, the musical becomes not only a creative expression of the present but also a tribute to the enduring impact of hip-hop on the global stage.

Amid the backdrop of unprecedented levels of gun violence and youth crime in Washington, DC, these young performers are using Once Upon a Rhyme as their contribution to gun violence prevention. Through their powerful storytelling, they are actively participating in being a part of the solution to the challenges faced by their community.

Once Upon a Rhyme is a compelling narrative that follows the story of Prince Pharoah Harper, a Black boy turned man battling between two worlds of authenticity. He must choose between his love for dance and his gift as a lyrically driven rapper. As his archetypal journey continues, Prince finds himself searching for the meaning of his Blackness and where it fits within the Black community. Growing up in Clifftown, he struggled to feel accepted because of how he grew up. He didn’t grow up like most Black boys, and he definitely didn’t act like most Black boys either. Prince was raised in the suburbs by a mother who always believed in his dancing career, and a father who believed tough love was the only way to groom him into a “man.” When he gets the chance to showcase his rap gifts in front of a major record label at Mo Illa Saturdays, a local open mic joint, he is challenged by the biggest rapper in South Clifftown. Assuming he will get signed, Prince loses sight of himself and the gifts he already has and becomes a completely different person. Come on this journey with Prince as he faces love, betrayal, secrecy, and defeat. Will Prince choose dance? Or will he pay the price of fame?

Directed by 2019 DC Teacher of the Year Finalist Caity Schneeman, Once Upon a Rhyme features a remarkable ensemble cast comprising current students from Cardozo Education Campus and KIPP DC College Prep, as well as out-of-school youth in DC who are under- or unemployed. Many of the performers have a personal connection to Schneeman, having been her former students, creating a powerful sense of community within the production.

The cast of ‘Once Upon a Rhyme.’ Photo courtesy of Caity Schneeman..

At its core, Once Upon a Rhyme conveys a powerful message about self-discovery and embracing individuality. The musical encourages audiences to believe in the magic within themselves, emphasizing that speaking greatness into one’s life creates space for confidence and self-validation. The central theme of the production underscores that there isn’t just one way to be; individuals can exist in many forms, reminding everyone that they are enough.

Join Theatre 202 and Dozo Drama on this extraordinary journey with Prince as he faces the challenges of self-discovery, love, and the pursuit of authenticity. Once Upon a Rhyme is not just a musical; it’s a celebration of diversity, resilience, and the transformative power of the arts.

Once Upon a Rhyme: A Musical Tale, presented by Theatre 202 and Dozo Drama, plays Thursday, November 16, through Saturday, November 18, 2023, at Cardozo Education Campus, 1200 Clifton St NW, Washington, DC. Advance tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and can be purchased online. Tickets will also be available at the door for $20 for adults and $15 for students.


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