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December 11, 1987 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1987-12-11

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ARTS
Friday, December 11, 1987

The Michigan Daily

Page 13

'Nativity'

awakens

By Terri S. Park
Somewhere, amidst all of the
lights and tinsel, the cellophane
wrapping paper, the crowded stores,
the frayed nerves, and the general
evolution of the "commercial holi-
day," the true meaning of Christmas
is often overlooked, and even
forgotten. Sometimes, it takes
something special to remind us what
we are really celebrating. Perhaps
this year, that special something is a
musical play entitled Black Nativ-
ity.
The Ann Arbor premiere perfor-
mance of Langston Hughes' Black
Nativity will be presented by the
Black Theatre Workshop and the
University's Minority Service Orga-
nizations. The play originally had its
Broadway debut in 1961, before the
height of the civil rights movement.
It was originally entitled Wasn' t
That A Mighty Day, but was later
changed to Black Nativity, which
caused some actors to leave the play
because they were uneasy with giv-
ing it a label by race.
When asked about the initial re-
ception to this gospel play, Deana
Thomas, producer of Black Nativity,
states, "It originally had a short run,
it didn't do well in the United States,
but did do surprisingly well abroad."
Black Nativity is a play with a
sixteen page script. The storyline is
siiple. In a far away African village
the story of the birth of Christ is
'Patience'
is worth

true s
Minority Affairs, and the Center for
Afro-American Studies. However,
even as of last week the play was
plagued by limited funding. "I had to
tell everyone that the play might
not go on, because we didn't have
the funds to rent the theatre," recalls
Thomas. "Finally, I called Vice-
President Henry Johnson's office and
asked for the money... their reply
was 'yes,' and I knew my prayers
were answered... the play would go
on no matter what obstacles we
faced."
So after much tribulation, the
show looks as though it is really
going to happen, with dancing
choreographed by Gayle Martin, and
traditional gospel music creatively
arranged by Alvin Waters. The cast
itself is composed of graduate and
undergraduate students from the
University, with Steve Dixon (from
The Carrier), as a supporting actor.
The artistic director is Byron Saun-
ders, the 1986 winner of the Kool
Achiever's Award for his accom-
plishments in providing professional
opportunities to Black performers
: and technicians.

pirit
"This play is actually a non-de-
nomination play, it's not about be-
ing Baptist or Catholic," says
Thomas. "The whole concept of
Black Nativity is family...not a
Black family, but the family of
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. A human
family... this play is about uniting
the family."
So in the midst of cramming for
finals, writing term papers, and
braving the shopping malls for last
minute gift buying, take time ott
with a friend or members of your
own family to reflect upon the true'
meaning of the season, and see this
heart-warming, feet-stomping, love
inspired musical. Perhaps, in our
world of racial tension and unrest,
the real spirit and meaning of
Christmas is truly color-blind.
Performances of BLACK NA-
TIVITY will be held from Decem-
ber 17 to December 19 at 8 p.m. and
Sunday, December 20, at 2 p.m. at
the Mendelssohn Theatre in the
Michigan League. Ticket prices are
$10 and $8 for general admission,
and $4 with student I.D. For ticket
info call 764-1582 or 764-5350.

Workshop will be ushering in the holiday's with Langston Hughes'
right), Deana Thomas and Rosia Mitchell. Second row (left to right),1
Steve Dixon, Washington Holmes, Rick Titsworth, and Gayle Martin.

The Black Theatre
First row (left to
Shawn Scarbrough,

'Black Nativity.'
LaDawn Welton,

being told by a Griot, an African
story teller, to a group of villagers.
The villagers then recreate the event
with singing and dancing. That's all
there is to it. The presentation of
this musical is completely left to the
interpretation of the individual direc-
tor. "It is a director's dream," says
Thomas with shining eyes. "You
can make it do whatever you want."
The production of Black Nativity
is in itself a story of miracles and
faith. According to Thomas, it is the
cumulative response of the Uni-

versity and its Black community to
the Theatre Department's decision in
1983, to no longer sponsor Black
productions. The department's rea-
soning was based on a desire to con-
centrate more on multi-racial pro-
grams, she says.
The idea to produce Black Nativ-
ity came to Thomas in October. "I
knew I had performers, but I had no
one to help with the advertising and
business aspect of the production. I
told everyone I knew in the commu-
nity what I was doing and how much

help I needed, I set up a meeting
time for volunteers, then I just
prayed."
The response that Thomas re-
ceived was overwhelming. "Every-
one I had contacted had come, and
even brought their friends," Thomas
says. "I laid out the papers with the
duty descriptions on them.Within a
few minutes every piece of paper
was gone."
The financing of the production
includes donations from the Vice-
Provost Office, The Office of

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the

wait

By Lisa Pollak
If you're typical, you'll probably
attend your first Gilbert and Sullivan
show knowing no more about these
English composers than the phrase
about the model of a modern major
general and the fact that Kristie
McNichol and Christopher Atkins
starred in the ripoff-flick-flop
Pirates.
And admittedly, if you've never
gone to one before, you probably
wouldn't consider attending the Uni-
versity's Gilbert and Sullivan Soci-
ety's presentation of Patience this
weekend. Gilbert and Sullivan?
Aren't their story lines filled with
obscure rhyming allusions to British
life? Didn't this light operetta stuff
go out with the ice capades and
Donny and Marie ?
But try to have some - patience,
that is. Patience is a story about a
{ milkmaid named Patience who is
pursued and courted by two
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