Black Nativity

Black Nativity

Black Nativity is a re-telling of the classic Nativity story with an entirely black cast. Traditional Christmas carols are sung in gospel style, with a few songs created specifically for the show. Originally written by Langston Hughes, the show was first performed on Broadway on December 11, 1961, and was one of the first plays written by an African-American to do so. It has been performed in Boston, Massachusetts at Tremont Temple since 1969. The 160 singers are arranged by age group and vocal range, with an assortment of soloists, along with the narrator, and Mary and Joseph, who are both mute.

The show begins with the theater completely darkened. Barefoot singers clad only in white robes and carrying (electric) candles walk in, singing the classic hymn "Go Tell It on the Mountain". The birth of Jesus is one of the most dramatic aspects of the show. The stage, previously lit with orange and blue lights, is bathed in a deep red hue. Mary's contractions are echoed through the use of African drums and percussion. The Three Wise Men are typically played by prominent members of the black community in the neighboring area, and have no singing parts. The show closes with the chorus singing a reprise of "Go Tell It on the Mountain" as they walk out in darkness. A final soliloquy by a young child ends the performance.

The original name for this play was "Wasn’t It a Mighty Day?" Alvin Ailey was a part of the original Broadway cast. [("") "Black Nativity by Langston Hughes: A Musical African-American Holiday Tradition" by Sharyn Skeeter]

A performance of this musical also has taken place every Christmas season for 10 years running in Seattle at the Intiman Theater [] . It is a smaller production with closer to 30 than 160 performers- most of whom are also members of The Total Experience Gospel Choir, led by Pastor Patrinell Wright [ [ Total Experience Gospel Choir - Choir History - FOUNDER/DIRECTOR BIO ] ] . It also stars Reverend Sam McKinney, who has been a Civil Rights activist and a prominent Baptist minister in the Seattle area for nearly 50 years, as well as being a friend and classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. [ [ McKinney ] ]


External links

* []
* [ Black Nativity debuts on Broadway] from the African American Registry
* [ NCAAA page]

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