Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe – once again – invites the community to celebrate the holiday season with “Black Nativity,” an inspirational gospel musical originally penned by poet/playwright Langston Hughes that retells the biblical Nativity story. The music is combined with dance, poetry and narrative to deliver a message of joy, hope and liberation.
Children and adults of all ages, races and backgrounds will be enthralled by this high-energy, theatrical wonderment. The show runs in WBTT’s Donelly Theatre from November 30-December 23.
“Black Nativity” returns to the WBTT stage by popular demand: the production enjoyed sold-out runs in 2014, 2016 and 2018. The music is a celebratory mash-up of gospel, blues, spiritual and Christmas music, paired with the poetry of Hughes and the creativity of WBTT. Nate Jacobs, WBTT’s founder and artistic director, adapted and is directing the show.
“Just as ‘The Nutcracker’ has become a worldwide holiday staple, ‘Black Nativity’ – our Christmas card to the community – holds a similar place of esteem for the Black community,” said WBTT Founder/Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. “Langston Hughes was dedicated to telling real-life stories of African American people and I know audiences here in Sarasota have been inspired by the production, regardless of their race or religious background.”
The show was first performed off-Broadway in 1961 – it was one of the first plays written by an African American to be staged there. “Black Nativity” is performed annually in cities across the country, including Atlanta, Chicago, Boston and Seattle, and was made into a film – with numerous Black stars, including Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson and Jennifer Hudson – in 2013.
Artists featured in the production include Stephanie Zandra (Archangel), Raleigh Mosely II (Joseph), Maicy Powell (Mary), Donovan Whitney (Narrator), and other familiar faces including Syreeta S. Banks, Ariel Blue, and Donald Frison. In addition to new artists to WBTT’s stage, the production features a number of young artists who currently participate in or are alumni of the organization’s Stage of Discovery youth training program.
Music director is Matthew McKinnon, who will also play keys; the band includes Marvin Hendon (bass), Jamar Camp (auxiliary keys), Brad Foutch (guitar) and Caleb Miller (drums).
Production manager is Kevin White; production stage manager is Juanita Munford; assistant director/choreographer is Donald Frison; set designers are Donna and Mark Buckalter; costume designer is Adrienne Pitts; wig designer is Dominique Freeman; lighting designer is Michael Pasquini; sound designer is Patrick Russini; and properties designer is Annette Breazeale.
“This may be the fourth time that WBTT has performed ’Black Nativity’ but it is the first time on our renovated Donelly stage, and each production features new artists whose combined talents and interactions make it unique,” said Executive Director Julie Leach. “We are thrilled to have such rich source material, which enables us to teach, uplift, engage and entertain thousands of patrons over the course of the run.”
Tickets are $50/adults, $20/students and active military (cost includes applicable ticket fees). Call the Box Office at 941-366-1505 or visit westcoastblacktheatre.org.
Photos by Sorcha Augustine
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates African American history and experience, engages a broad base of patrons and audiences, supports the development of a dynamic group of aspiring artists, and builds self-esteem in youth of color. Visit westcoastblacktheatre.org for more information.