Langston Hughes' Black Nativity

Black Nativity

Written by Niki D'Andrea Category: Arts Issue: December 2015
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SEE IT: Published in December, 1930 – long before the  present-day debate on the cultural and commercial connotations of Christmas – Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes’ poem “Merry Christmas” juxtaposed   seasonal tidings of joy with real-world tidal waves of human troubles, encouraging the down-and-out to “Eat, drink and be merry with a bread-line Santa Claus” amid the “Christian guns” that “SHOOT Merry Christmas everywhere!” By 1961, when Hughes’ holiday play Black Nativity was first performed off-Broadway, his tone had mellowed and flowed into a new – but no less spirited – narrative on the birth of Jesus, complete with traditional Christmas songs sung in the gusto of gospel and African drums beating to the rhythm of Mary’s contractions. Black Theatre Troupe brings the production to Phoenix by popular demand December 4-20 at the Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center, 1333 E. Washington St., Phoenix. Tickets cost $32. Call 602-258-8128 or visit blacktheatretroupe.org for showtimes.