Nothing is sacred these days, not even nativity scenes. There are South Park parodies, nativity beer steins, and even holiday pranks that have resulted in churches putting GPS trackers inside nativity statues. (For example, Marilyn Manson admits to having once swapped the Baby Jesus for a ham in a life-sized crèche.)
While Black Theatre Troupe’s production of Black Nativity isn’t as controversial as Manson’s move, it isn’t your typical boring pastoral play either. Penned by poet Langston Hughes, the musical revue presents the Christmas story portion of the Gospel of Luke told through African drumming and dance, holiday carols, and gospel songs including the Whitney Houston hit, “Who Would Imagine a King.”
Diverging from the traditional Bethlehem narrative has rattled a few conservative theatergoers, says director David J. Hemphill. “But [Black Nativity] transcends any ethnic group and it touches all faiths. Even if you don’t agree with some elements, you can still enjoy good gospel singing and rousing beats,” he points out.