Let Me Out
by Jacqueline Dillon
During Jim Steinman's final year at Massachusetts' Amherst College, as fulfillment of an Independent Studies project, he conceived, wrote and scored a rock -n- roll musical called The Dream Engine. In the spring of 1969, Steinman starred in an explosive production of that piece which was staged, directed and choreographed by Barry Keating, who also electrified the role of the oracular Historian. The Dream Engine was met with a great deal of attention...both of the positive and negative variety.
Joe Papp, the innovative helmsman of The New York Shakespeare Festival, optioned immediately for professional rights to stage the work. The majority of the show's several thousand witnesses were aroused and intrigued. A few were unable to handle the power of the show's vigorous, unashamed and explicit content and protested the one aspect of the work that should have frightened and offended them least - the physical nakedness. Why wasn't it the terrifying way The Dream Engine exposes mankind on the inside that scared them? Or maybe it was? In any case, that five night, two weekend event simultaneously marked the end of Jim's college career and the beginning of a new one as a musical and theatrical vanguard.
As theater The Dream Engine is highly illuminating, exceptionally poignant, extremely biting and, at times, extraordinarily humorous - characteristics present in Steinman's entire body of work. Still, within the two acts of The Dream Engine, you'll find much more than just stylistic similarities to what Jim produced later. It's clear that The Dream Engine has fueled everything that has come after it and is also the foundation which Steinmania, and the philosophy associated with it, is built on. Here we see, in a raw and early incarnation, the special set of mind that makes Jim Steinman the kind of man and writer he is - a person capable of giving us, at the same time, a most vivid sense of the qualities of things and an equally compelling revelation of his own feelings. Profoundly and particularly in The Dream Engine, we experience the force of Steinman's conviction and his exaltation before things. Strip away from The Dream Engine the aspects that were influenced by the social climate of the day and you'll see that, as with all of Jim's art, it's inspired by his great hope for humanity and an urgent, irrepressible need to communicate that hope in an effort to educate our spirit, unloosen our feelings and prove to us that there can be a life after birth.