Hughes’ ‘Black Nativity’ returns to the Actors’ Warehouse stage
Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 11:38 a.m.
‘Black Nativity,” a retelling of the birth of Jesus Christ by poet Langston Hughes and adapted by Shontae Khaleel White, will return to The Actors’ Warehouse to ring in the holiday season with gospel songs, pantomine, testimony and folk spirituals.
What: Actors’ Warehouse production of Langston Hughes’ self-described “gospel song play”
When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and Dec. 19-21, 3 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 22
Where: Actors’ Warehouse, 608 N. Main St.
Info: 222-3699, www.actorswarehouse.org
Directed by White, “Black Nativity” opens Friday and will continue at 8 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 19-21 with 3 p.m. performances on Sunday and Dec. 22 at The Actors’ Warehouse, 608 N. Main St. Tickets are $15 in advance and one hour before showtime.
“Black Nativity” made its debut in 1961 on Broadway, and White’s adaptation debuted in 2012 in Gainesville.
Hughes (1902-1967) is a legendary African-American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright and columnist best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s and expressed African-American heritage through art, literature and music.
“This play will connect the audience with traditional and modern gospel,” said Steven H. Butler, artistic director at The Actors’ Warehouse. “We want ‘Black Nativity’ to become a family tradition in Gainesville.”
White, a Gainesville resident originally from Philadelphia who works at the University of Florida, said Hughes called “Black Nativity” a “gospel song play.” White said Act I is a narrative of the original Nativity story in scripture, verse, music and dance, based on the Gospel of St. Luke, combined with Hughes’ poetry.
“This song play touches a special chord in the hearts of all,” White said. “Act I remains true to Hughes’ script and Act II will transport you to the modern day as we focus on the true reason of the season.”
White said Act II has been modernized to celebrate the birth of Jesus the way he is worshipped in African-American churches with gospel music, praise dancing, testimony and prayer.
White said contemporary songs will include “Set Me Free” by Myron Butler, “Glorify Him” by Darwin Hobbs, “He Wants It All” by Forever Jones, “The Storm is Over Now” by Kirk Franklin, “What Can I Do” by Tye Tribbett, “Lift Him Up,” by Bishop Hezekiah Walker and “Riverside” by Kirk Franklin. Older gospel songs will include “I Know I’ve Been Changed” and “Leak In This Old Building.”
White has performed locally at the Gainesville Community Playhouse and at The Actors’ Warehouse, where he also is the technical director. He directed “Top Dog/Under Dog,” a play that kicked off The Actors’ Warehouse 2013-2014 season, and is returning as director of “Black Nativity.”
The cast includes Bradley Small, Jamaili Tyler, Howard Anderson, Danny Williams, Contina Carr, Brandon Hall, Tamboura Jenkins, Lamont Wallace, Russell Williams, Marissa Washington, Alexis Williams, Tinesha Williams and Anquetta Carr.
“‘Black Nativity’ celebrates the spirit and the essence of the season,” White said. “I hope the audience joins in the celebration through the songs and leave with a renewed spirit.”