Husband and wife performing duo Bo Gerard and Gretchen Walz Gerard are co-founding members of FACP’s education outreach program, joining Rogene Russell and Winston Stone to become the Dream Collectors. Their first performance in April 1989 was part of the Kennedy Center Imagination Celebration at the Dallas Museum of Art where they won “Best Live Performance.”
They were off and running from there! For 28 years, Bo and Gretchen have been busy writing plays, choreographing, performing, and teaching as part of this award-winning group. Dream Collectors’ shows combine live theater, music, magic, and circus skills to explore topics like learning differences and character in a fun, engaging way. Their original, cross-curricular musical programs are for schools in the Dallas area, and each performance is customized with grade-appropriate curriculum in compliance with State of Texas mandated Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
Read more and get to know our FACP educators, Bo and Gretchen!
What did you study in college, and where did you study?
Gretchen: I was fortunate to have received a full Presidential Scholarship to study theatre at Adelphi University in New York. My college experience was quite exceptional because it was more like attending an intensive four-year conservatory where I graduated with a BFA in Theatre Arts, summa cum laude.
Bo: I studied Architecture at the City College of New York, and made a sudden and fortuitous left turn into the world of New York Theater.
What is your professional background?
Gretchen: After graduating from Adelphi, I did voice work for Sesame Street cartoons. I also performed in numerous New York City theatre productions at Playwright’s Horizon, Lamb’s Theatre, Drama Committee, and the Lincoln Center Festival, etc. Bo and I met while creating and performing with Bond Street Theatre: it’s an incredible company that pioneers theatre-based projects for conflict resolution, education, and empowerment worldwide in countries such as Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Azerbaijan. After New York, I did regional theatre, finally landing in Dallas where I performed in local theatre productions, TV commercials, and country music videos. I had a lot of fun hosting 30 episodes of the children’s television show, “Club 27.” For 10 years, I performed and taught with Young Audiences before they became Big Thought.
Bo: I began in music as a recording artist in NYC, and segued into musical theater. I studied with a host of amazing NYC teachers and have performed in shows with Glenn Close, Jim Dale, and Stacy Keach. As a Comedy Magician I have performed over 14,000 shows so far & have shared the stage with: Bill Gates, Lee Iacocca, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Bodett, “Mary Kay” Ash and many other celebrities.
What instruments do you play and what other performances specialties do you have?
Gretchen: I play flute and I can juggle. Off stage, I am a painter and mask maker.
Bo: Percussion is my main instrument, but I also play piano and electric bass. I also perform magic, incorporating juggling and a variety of circus skills.
How old were you when you started studying music/theater?
Gretchen: I started performing theatre when I was 13 at the Lexington Children’s Theatre in Kentucky where we performed at the University of Kentucky’s Guignol Theatre.
Bo: At 15 I simply had to play the drums, so I carved a pair of drumsticks out of some wood my Dad had and played on an array of pillows – every day!
What is a typical Dream Collectors performance like?
Gretchen: Currently, Bo and I are performing our original musical comedy, “Escape from Couch Potato Land” in schools. In this play two kids are stuck on the sofa watching TV and eating junk food. Super Chef and Vita Girl come to their rescue with the Brilliant I.D.E.A. – a plan to help them escape. We get students and teachers up singing and dancing about the importance of imagination, a good attitude, and fun exercise. We share information about a balanced, healthy diet. We hope to inspire kids to lead active, healthy lives. We write the lyrics and music, and record our songs. Some titles are “Read All About It,” “Imagine That,” and “Turn It Around” which is a song about having a good attitude.
What do you love about teaching and performing for elementary school students?
Gretchen: It is such a blessing to get to teach and perform for these students and their amazing teachers. Their openness and enthusiasm are so inspiring. They are ready for a hopeful message and crave an opportunity to learn and to laugh. Although their lives already have so many challenges, they aren’t cynical yet. When our show is over we go out into the audience so we can look in the eyes and share a smile with each and every child. They all want to be seen and valued.
Bo: Many of the kids we perform for have not been exposed to live theatre, so this is their first experience with it. This is an honor and a great responsibility – to usher them into the world of musical theater and enrich them with topics that are relevant to their lives.
What is a particularly memorable performance of yours?
Gretchen: We just love seeing the students and teachers up singing and dancing to our original songs like “Be the Hero,” “Work It Out” (about compromise), and “Prove It” (about the scientific method). Also, it was very inspiring performing our show about dyslexia called “The L.D. Zone” at a time when very little was understood about learning differences in the general public.
What piece of advice would you give 8-year-old Bo or Gretchen?
Gretchen: What a wonderful age. Actually, I think she could probably give me some advice! Play, enjoy each day, be fully present as much as you can because time goes by fast. Appreciate your parents and teachers. It’s more important to be kind than to be right.
Bo: Finding myself content and fulfilled in my career, I have no advice to my 8-year-old self, except “You are in for a great ride!”
What’s your favorite sound (musical or non-musical)? Least favorite?
Gretchen: Right now my favorite sound is the laughter of our grandson. Also, song birds in the morning. My least favorite is a child crying out in distress.
Bo: My favorite sound is the sound of pure joy when expressed through an instrument or voice. My least favorite is when I hear people say they could never sing or play an instrument.
Once you leave this world and reach the pearly gates, what celestial concert are you looking forward to?
Gretchen: Maya Angelou singing, dancing, and reciting her poetry. If I don’t make it through the pearly gates then perhaps I’ll dance (as I did as a child) to Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.
Bo: I would put together a band comprised of Albert Einstein on violin, Alexander Graham Bell on the piano, Charles Dickens on accordion, Neil Armstrong on the baritone horn, and me on percussion.