By Ruth Ferguson, NDG Editor
TeCo Theatrical Production’s 2014 Black Nativity production will warm your heart, lift your spirits and take you back home — your church home — for Christmas. The company provides a new spin on Langston Hughes’ legendary search for the true meaning of our Christmas celebrations.
The show debuted off Broadway on Dec. 11, 1961 and has continued around the country annually ever since. Each year of TeCo’s 21 history they have brought the play to stage under the direction of a different director to give audiences a new way of seeing the familiar themes. This year the director is Selmoe Haines III and the Musical Director is Michael Hubbard, Jr.
So, back in the day, if you ever worked in the Sunday School Department you know what it is like to put on the annual Christmas play. And let’s admit it, a few of us promised ourselves we were done with that. However, in TeCo’s Black Nativity I was reminded of the wonderment of the night (or Sundays at 3 p.m.) when all the hard work of the children and volunteers is brought to life. When kids don’t stand in the right spot or say their lines just right, but they sing their hearts out. Their faces beam with pride as moms and dads (a few who only show up on CME – and you know what that stands for) watch their baby say their Christmas speeches. Now, like so much of the rest of our worship experiences, the simple Christmas plays have been replaced with incredible Christmas productions. Church theater departments now take on the annual play complete with praise and worship dancers, and even live animals.
All of that is fine, but I bet none of them will have a rapping Men in Black kinda of angel to deliver the good news to Joseph like Black Nativity. And trust me you have NOT lived until you have seen a group of kids perform karoke or lip sync to a Rev. James Cleveland song. Yes, that happened and it was so funny!
And while the first act is filled with laughter, in the second act we really go back to church, and yes that certainly includes laughter. However, we are reminded about the fact that everyone who smiles on Sunday morning in their finest outfit, ain’t really happy inside. It was wonderful to hear a truly soul stirring old hymn like Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah – complete with a little soloist “drama.” But I must admit, usually I am not the biggest fan of the popular gospel song Break Every Chain, but the combination of Denise Baker’s heartfelt performance with the featured Angel Dancer Donald Thompkins provided a totally different revelation of the song for the audience.
There are only five performances left of TeCo’s 2014 production of Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity and according to their Facebook page they are selling out fast. Visit TecoTheater.org and order your ticket to the show at the Bishop Arts Theatre before it closes on Dec. 21. It will be an enriching event, your family will look forward to attending annually.