UMES Drama Society presents Black Nativity

  • Wednesday, October 19, 2011

     

    PRINCESS ANNE, MD-(Oct. 19, 2011) A musical African-American holiday tradition, "Black Nativity" by Langston Hughes, is taking shape in rehearsals at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

    The university's drama society will perform the "gospel song play," as Hughes described it, Nov. 3-5, at 7 p.m. in the Ella Fitzgerald Center for the Performing Arts.

    This is the first time in its 35-year existence that the society has performed a Christmas play. 

     "The cast relays the birth of Christ according to the Gospel of St. Luke through song, dance and poetry," said Dr. Della Dameron-Johnson, director of the drama society.  Traditional Christmas carols are sung "gospel-style" along with contemporary songs and some written by Hughes for the original play, she said.

    "It's different from anything we've done before," said Janae Wonsley, a junior English major and drama society member from Brooklyn, N.Y.  "There's a lot of old-school gospel."  Wonsley, who has several solos in the production ("Joy to the World," For Every Mountain," "We Shall Behold Him" and "Packing Up"), said she likes the church scene in Act II, because that is where most of the contemporary songs are sung.  "I get to wear a suit and a big church hat," she said.  "It's more me."

    Dameron-Johnson predicts the audience will enjoy "the comic relief in Act I, when Mary and Joseph encounter a group of shepherds watching over their flock by night."

    UMES' Gospel Choir will lend its talent to the production.  As is the play's tradition, local political figures or pastors are being sought to play the non-singing parts of the three wise men. 

    "Black Nativity" was first performed on Broadway on Dec. 11, 1961, one of the first plays written by an African-American to be performed there. The play is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

     Tickets are $5 for general admission, $3 for seniors and $2 for students with identification.  Tickets are available at the door.

     Call 410-651-6575 or 410-651-6669 for more information.

    Photo caption:  Drama Society and Gospel Choir members, from left, John Kahler, Jamar Hickman and Janae Wonsley, look over the script for Lanston Hughes' play "Black Nativity" with Dr. Della Dameron-Johnson, (center), director of UMES' Drama Society.

     

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    Gail Stephens, assistant director, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-651-7580, gcstephens@umes.edu.  

    Bill Robinson, director, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-621-2355, wrobinson3@umes.edu.