The nativity, through Langston Hughes' eyes

Intiman's holiday tradition rocks on with "Black Nativity," a powerful late work by an authentic American poet.

The Intiman Theater was rocking Thursday night (and will continue to do so through Dec. 27) as Langston Hughes' Black Nativity was performed anew by Pastor Patrinell Wright's Total Experience Gospel Choir and outstanding individual vocalists, dancers, and musicians. Hughes, perhaps our most authentic American poet, wrote Black Nativity in 1961, six years before his death. It saw the nativity through African American eyes.

After intermission, the performance became a joyful replication of a black Sunday worship service, with strong audience participation. Soloist Josephine Howell's rendition of "Alabaster Box" was easily the most moving of any I have heard. Many in the audience, and in the choir, were in tears as it ended.

In a difficult holiday period, the performance conjured bittersweet 1938 lines from a youthful Hughes which expressed his hopefulness in a time of pain: "America never was America to me. Yet this I swear...America will be!"

Get to the Intiman, if you can, to share in what has become an annual Seattle holiday tradition. Like those of us in the audience last Thursday, you will emerge feeling renewed and strong.

Ted Van Dyk has been involved in, and written about, national policy and politics since 1961. His memoir of public life, Heroes, Hacks and Fools, was published by University of Washington Press. You can reach him in care of editor@crosscut.com.


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