Black Nativity by Langston Hughes returns with a new director, renewed vision

MILWAUKEEBlack Arts MKE‘s cherished holiday tradition returns for its eighth year, with a reimagined and elevated experience. Black Nativity by Langston Hughes will grace the stage for one remarkable weekend from December 7th to December 10th, 2023, at Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall, Marcus Center. This new and uplifting retelling of Hughes’ timeless 1961 play telling the story of the Nativity from the African American perspective, unfolds in both Bethlehem and present-day Milwaukee, infusing the vibrancy of African diaspora poetry, music, and dance, all presented by a captivating, all-Black, Milwaukee area based cast.

This year’s rendition welcomes a new Director and an Artistic Director. New Director Ashley Jordan, a prominent Milwaukee-based actor and director, will work alongside Artistic Director Wanyah Frazier. Together, with a stellar creative team, they have embarked on an exhilarating journey to reinterpret this classic musical, rooted in the celebration of the Black family. This season, they drew inspiration from a multitude of artistic influences, both historical and contemporary, to breathe new life into the show. Extensive historical research has informed their approach, drawing inspiration from icons like Alvin Ailey, who was part of Hughes’ original cast, and incorporating lighting dream sequences reminiscent of iconic productions like The Wiz.

The creative team, conducted by Artistic Director, Wanyah Frazier, is dedicated to elevating the production in every aspect, including music, dance, costuming, and set design. International professional dancer and teaching artist, Debrasha Greye leads the choreography and will craft vibrant and emotionally resonant dance sequences, paying homage to the legendary Alvin Ailey. Respected music producer, Antoine Reynolds returns for his seventh year to direct a full live band that shares the stage with drummers from the dynamic Drums Up Guns Down 414. Costume stylists Kyndal Johnson and Vato Vergara return to evolve their designs to further embrace the afro-centric diaspora and spoken word artist, Denzel Taylor lends his powerful voice to the Spirit of God throughout the play. Lastly, the stage design expands to include architectural elements representing different parts of Bethlehem and Milwaukee.

“As a new director, I want to introduce multiple artistic influences throughout the world of today with Black traditions and iconic moments throughout the history of Black Nativity performances,” said Ashley Jordan, Director. “Black Nativity 2023 shifts in dynamic energy, relevance and also a dichotomy of righteousness, redemption, and oral tradition. Black Nativity is an anchor in the community and to those who experience cultural variations of the African, and African American diaspora.”

And from Artistic Director Wanyah Frazier, “Creatively, Black Nativity will take audiences on a heartwarming journey of familial love, faith, and the creation of new family traditions and norms. Audiences will be inspired by relatable, but current family stories, a home reminiscent of Christmas, and entranced by a dreamlike vision of Bethlehem. Black Nativity represents a reclamation of the Black narrative and a staple of the Black creative culture. As we move into a period of ‘Renaissance’ in Milwaukee’s creative environment, we have the opportunity to create a rendition of Black Nativity that provides an intergenerational, culturally expansive and professional arts experience.”

Don’t miss this captivating, reimagined Black Nativity by Langston Hughes – a heartwarming celebration of the Black family, both past and present. This year’s production promises to be a testament to the rich tapestry of African American culture, filled with mesmerizing performances, soul-stirring music, and awe-inspiring dance.

Christian Adams, Tabitha Andrews, Nathan Berry, Zoe Chambers, Nakyah Collier, Amari DeBerry, Raven Dockery, Dos Feurtado, Amber Gray, Sanaiah Hibbler, Johnathyn Kerkenbush, Ella Lakey, Matthew Lewis, Jasmine Love, Martin Da’Costa, Tyler Reynolds, Nyk Reynolds, Derrick Sanders, Melesha Spears, D’Shaunta Stewart, Denzel Taylor, Malinda-Christine Tillman, William Toney

Black Arts MKE’s Black Nativity by Langston Hughes is generously supported by BMO Harris Bank, Bader Philanthropies, Forest County Potawatomi Foundation, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Gruber Law Offices, Harri Hoffmann Family Foundation, Herzfeld Foundation, Johnson Controls Foundation, Old National Bank, PNC Bank, We Energies Foundation, and Yip Harburg Foundation.

Musical performance schedule featuring post-show talkback (inclusive run time 2 hours):
· Thursday, December 7, 2023, 7:30PM (Student Matinee 11:00AM)
· Friday, December 8th, 2023, 7:30PM (Student Matinee 11:00AM)
· Saturday, December 9th, 2:00PM & 7:30PM
· Sunday, December 10th, 2:00PM

ASL Interpreted Performance: Saturday, December 9th, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.
This performance will be sign language interpreted for patrons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Friday, October 27 at Noon
December 7-10, 2023
Community Night $25

Marcus Center Box Office, 929 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI, Call 414-273-7206
Groups of 10 or more should contact Group Sales at 414-273-7121, x210

Black Arts MKE’s mission is to increase the availability and quality of African American arts and culture. We’re a Black-led performing arts organization who serves predominantly Black communities. We produce, present, and/or commission new performance arts works including classic works, readings, conversations, and festivals, as well as Black-led institutions focused on Black audience development, all rooted in the full diversity, complexity, and intersectionality of the Black Experience. Black Arts MKE’s annual signature events – MKE Black Theatre Festival and Black Nativity by Langston Hughes musical are annual Milwaukee favorites and feature all-black, MKE-area based cast. We’re a recipient of the APAP ArtsForward, NEA Grant for Arts Projects, The Black Seed and Theatre Communications Group national awards. Black Arts MKE is a producing theatre with World Premier Wisconsin. We are a member of TYA/USA, proud Member Group of the United Performing Arts Fund and Resident Group at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. Black Arts MKE is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation.