Langston Hughes' Black Nativity

A Karamu classic and Hughes' famed retelling of the Nativity story performed in traditional gospel style

In 1961, Karamu House founders Russell and Rowena Jelliffe commissioned Langston Hughes to write a Nativity story from the Black perspective. The play's original title, Wasn't That a Mighty Day?, was changed to Black Nativity right before the show's off-Broadway opening on December 11, 1961. Hughes spent his high school years at Karamu. After he graduated, Hughes sustained a lifelong intimate relationship with Mr. & Mrs. Jelliffe. He also stayed connected to fellow actors, artists, and directors.

Black Nativity Joseph carries Mary (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

Langston Hughes' Black Nativity tells the story of the Nativity from an African American perspective through a combination of scripture, poetry, dance and song with griot style narration. The 2021 production is infused with modern and contemporary musical arrangements. 

Black Nativity Mary with child (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

Kailyn Mack as Mary and Kevin Marr II as Joseph return to Karamu for the 2021 production of Black Nativity.

Black Nativity Mary and Joseph Dance (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

Kailyn Mack

Mack a professional dancer and artist, makes her third Black Nativity  appearance as Mary. She has performed and taught dance at Karamu. Mack is a graduate of Cleveland School of the Arts and obtained her Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Dance from Wright State University. 

Black Nativity Mary Labors (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

Dramatic dance flows in a hurry across Karamu's stage. Surrounded by the ensemble Mary (Mack) gracefully falls center stage laboring the birth of the Savior.

Black Nativity Joseph Dancer (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

Kevin Marr II

Black Nativity is Marr's longest running show, performing in more than ten productions (5 he choreographed, 2 performed as Joseph). Marr is a dancer and choreographer who's artwork express the impact of systemic structure and the outcomes of cultural communication barriers.

Black Nativity Ensemble (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

In the Karamu Costume Shop, Inda Blatch Geib designs over thirty colorful costumes for the 2021 production.  Brielle McGrew and her team work to fit actors, vocalists and dancers to create custom-fit costuming.

Black Nativity Vocal Ensemble (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

Christine Johnson returns to Karamu as part of the ensemble alongside ten other Karamu vocalists.  For health and safety, the 2021 ensemble was reduced in number as communities continue to face the many challenges of COVID-19.

Black Nativity Dancer Center Stage (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

Dijon Michelle

Michelle is a dancer with over 20 years experience. She is a Washington D.C. native and graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Michelle obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Point Park University and is a MFA graduate student at the University of Wisconsin.

Black Nativity Singer Joshua McElroy (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

Black Nativity is a community favorite spanning generations.  The musical presents twenty-five gospel songs and is one of Karamu's most engaging productions. Pictured is the 2021 Black Nativity ensemble.

Black Nativity Vocalist (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

Special thank you to the family of Mrs. Level Bostick, including daughter Linda Davis, for the donation of her hat collection, seen in Act II. Karamu is a non-profit organization that relies heavily on philinthropic support to carry out it's multifaceted mission through the arts.

Black Nativity Dancers Gospel (2021-12-02/2021-12-23) by Will LindseyKaramu Performing Arts Theatre

Captured here is the truest spirit of Karamu House. Karamu is a Swahili word meaning joyful gathering place.

Credits: Story

Directed by Tony F. Sias  
Music Director,  Dr. David M. Thomas
Choreographer, Kevin Marr II
Presented December 2 - 23, 2021
Karamu House - Cleveland Foundation Jelliffe Theatre 

Additional Cast
Darrelle Hill, Narrator
Vocal Ensemble- Brock, Erskine, Cartwright, Harvey, Jenkins, C. Johnson, J. Johnson, McElroy, Napier, Smith, Toon
Orchestra- Ransom, Ridley Jr., Byous, Deadwiley Sr., Williams, Cochran, Malloy, Woods, Smith

Additional Credits
Tony F. Sias, Exec. Producer
Vonetta Flowers, Production Director
Shannon McManus, Stage Manager
Tyree Franklin, Assistant Stage Manager
Brielle McGrew, Waredrobe Coordinator
Dred Geib, Props Manager
Phrophet Seay, Technical Director
Inda Blatch Geib, Costume Designer
T. Paul Lowry, Scenic + Multi Media/Video Designer
Richard H. Morris Jr., Scenic Designer
Colleen Albrecht, Lighting Designer
Richard Ingraham, Sound Designer
Auri Crawley, Sound Engineer

Photo Credits - Will Lindsey
Produced by special arrangement with Dramatic Publishing, Woodstock, IL.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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