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Black Nativity presented by Karamu House makes historic comeback at Playhouse Square for weekend premiere

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Posted at 6:49 AM, Dec 09, 2022

CLEVELAND — Karamu House, which is the oldest African American theater in the nation, is back at Playhouse Square presenting its Black Nativity production. Originally written by Langston Hughes, the production retells the poet’s faith-filled “Nativity” story performed by an all-Black cast.

“We have a history of doing the production offsite, so returning to Playhouse Square in almost 40 years is just a gift,” said President and CEO Tony Sias. “You're going to hear new arrangements of old gospels and spirituals, and you're going to see the community coming together as a whole to celebrate the holiday season.”

Sias says the return reflects a long overdue change.

“The world has changed, whether it's COVID, whether it's the murder of George Floyd, and that there's a consciousness that organizations across the board, whether Black, white, Jewish or whatever, are coming together to work together for the betterment of community,” he said. “This is an example of two organizations, sister theaters, producing theaters, coming together and having this experience.”

But this return is also significant for those bringing this spiritual production to life, which consists of 12 local vocalists, six dancers, and a collaboration with the Majuba Dance Company. The crew spent just over six weeks rehearsing.

“I haven't performed in Cleveland in many years…When I was younger, I used to come and see performances here all the time. Lion King, you know, Chicago [and] other Broadway shows,” said Taylor Jones, who portrays Joseph. “I always thought that it would be me up there one day. So just to be able to perform on the same stage as other big-name shows is a blessing.”

Kailyn Mack, who portrays Mary, says it’s exciting to “be a part of history.” She added, “for me, it always just brings a sense of joy. So, I hope people leave with that. You know, I hope people cry. I hope people smile. I hope people just enjoy themselves overall.”

You can catch Black Nativity starting Dec. 9 through Dec. 18 at Allen Theatre. To purchase tickets, click here.