Black Nativity: a retelling of the Nativity story

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The Black Theatre Troupe presents “Black Nativity”, a retelling of the Nativity story through song, dance and poetry.

It’s a holiday event by Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. Each year, Black Theatre Troupe’s production of this song-play features new musical selections to enhance the actors delivery of Hughes’ classic text.

It is filled with the sounds of some of the regions best known gospel artists, a dynamic choir and a powerful ensemble of dancers. Walter Belcher, director of the Black Theatre Troupe, talks more about performances.

Performances of Black Theatre Troupe’s BLACK NATIVITY are December 2 – 18, 2022 at the Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center, 1333 E. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85034.

What is the definition of Black Nativity?

“I think people know the story of the birth of christ. It’s the retelling of that through an Afrocentric lense, with dance, with poetry, and wonderful toe tapping Gospel music,” said Belcher.

Why has been described as a song-play?

“Most musical theatre as we know it, it’s often said that in a play it’s all textual givens. Whereas once you add music, music becomes the elevated moment where speaking doesn’t say enough. There isn’t necessarily a conversational piece to this, but there is a play that has music that helps tell the story of the birth of Christ,” said Belcher.

What kind of songs are performed?

“A lot of them you will know people will come and sing along. There’s ‘Go Telling on the Mountain,’ there’s ‘Silent Night,’ there’s ‘Joy to the World.’ The first act is written by Langston Hughes, although the first act never changes; it is given to you and you stage accordingly,” said Belcher.

The second act is more current and this changes every year. “If you see it anywhere across the country it may be slightly different, because people use current Gospel music to tell the same story,” explained Belcher.

Walter Belcher, Director of the Black Theatre Troupe

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