Black Nativity celebrates the birth of Christ

Devon A. Mosley | 12/24/2013, 9:16 a.m.
Going on its 20th season, Black Nativity by Langston Hughes was directed by Ed Smith. It was a confluence of ...
Musical stage performance of Black Nativity. Katherine Teeter

The Dallas Examiner

Going on its 20th season, Black Nativity by Langston Hughes was directed by Ed Smith. It was a confluence of a Broadway musical, a church service, a spoken-word lounge, a modern Christmas party and a depiction of difficult times for an oppressed people.

Teresa Coleman Wash, executive artistic director of TeCo Theatrical Productions Inc., introduced the Bishop Arts Theater Center – where the production took place – as she described the history and purpose of the 10,000 square foot theater. Shortly after this introduction, the two-act play immediately began.

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King,” veteran performer James Adams – adorned in ancient clothing and a headdress – bellowed, with jazz piano and African drums playing along. Soon after, other performers joined in harmoniously and with choreography.

Next, two actors sat in chairs to the right of the audience and periodically narrated the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.

A Black Joseph and Mary then slowly entered the stage. Pregnant and almost due, Mary found rest on a tree stump as they had no other place to go. Joseph – in his already humble circumstance – did everything that he could to make sure that his wife was comfortable.

As this all took place, vocalist Kimberley Steele took the stage with a soulful performance of I Can Only Imagine.

Seeking shelter for his wife, Joseph is shown appealing to an innkeeper only to be rejected seconds later. In despair, Joseph returned to his pregnant wife, and they continued to walk around seeking shelter until Mary could walk no further.

Two performers began to sing Mary Did You Know, which included the featured, Nebraska-based dancer Alyssa Harrington, who performed a ballet routine and was dressed in all-white.

As the story is commonly told, Mary and Joseph eventually settled in a stable, where Mary birthed Jesus and placed him in a manger. With Mary and Joseph now looking over Jesus in the manger, other songs were performed, including Silent Night; Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; One God (with a praise break section); Go Tell It on the Mountain; Sweet Little Jesus Boy; and O Come.

The climax of O Come was harmonized with a gospel tone and mirrored the rising up of Joseph and Mary in her arms.

After a brief intermission, the second act began, which was a contemporary Christmas party that included comedy, dancing, singing, a soul train line and the reading of favorite Langston Hughes quotes.

“Birthing is hard and dying is mean, so get yourself a little loving in between,” a performer said to the snaps of the party attendants.

Other cast members read profound quotes by Hughes and more singing took place. Other songs included Tis the Season, Now Behold the Lamb, Christmas Time is Here, Merry Christmas Baby, This Christmas and The Christmas Song.

Following these selections was the reading of Dr. Maya Angelou’s poem Amazing Peace by Gwinevere Nelson, Jamie Jordan and Doris Black-Hubbard.

“It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time. On this platform of peace, we can create a language to translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other. At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ …” Nelson read, poised, compassionately and resolute.

Black Nativity will be showing at the theater until Sunday at the theater, located at 215 S. Tyler St. For more information about the play or to buy tickets, visit http://www.tecotheater.org.