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Justice Theater Project’s Version of Langston Hughes’ Gospel Song Play, “Black Nativity,” Is Almost Sold Out

"Black Nativity" joyously retells the story of the birth of Jesus in song

"Black Nativity" joyously retells the story of the birth of Jesus in song

The Justice Theater Project hopes to start a new holiday tradition of performing shows in downtown Raleigh, NC, by presenting Black Nativity, a 1961 black gospel song play by Joplin, MO-born African-American poet, playwright, novelist, journalist, and political activist Langston Hughes (nee James Mercer Langston Hughes, 1902-67), on Dec. 16-18 in 340-seat Pittman Auditorium at Saint Mary’s School. All but one performance of this joyous retelling of the story of the birth of Jesus are SOLD OUT. A few tickets remain for the 8 p.m. Dec. 18th performance of this Broadway musical, which made its Big Apple debut on Dec. 11, 1961.

According to the Justice Theater Project:

“… With the matinee performance selling out to large groups two months in advance, Black Nativity is sure to become a family favorite holiday tradition in downtown Raleigh for years to come.

“Featuring an African-American cast of actors and a multicultural chorus of angels, this retelling of the birth of Jesus, according to St. Luke, has been thrilling audiences since its premiere in 1961. The show is a mix of poetry, contemporary, traditional and original gospel music with praise dance, written by legendary poet and social activist Langston Hughes.

“With an ensemble of more than 60 members, the Justice Theater Project artistic director Deb Royals has embraced entire families from the local theater and church gospel communities, providing opportunities for families to rehearse and perform together in the chorus. Royals’ husband and two of her sons are a part of the chorus, as well as husband-and-wife [Baptist Grove Church fine arts program directors] Sam and Renee Coley and their three children.

“Panther Creek High School theater director Bing Cox is joined by his fiancée Deb Lederer (art instructor at Carrboro Elementary School) and her two children. Stage manager and local theater professional Leanne Norton Heintz is sharing the experience with her two daughters, who are members of the chorus.

“The [Black Nativity] creative team includes Deb Royals as director, Carolyn Colquitt as music director, Regina Stevenson as choreographer, lights and sound by Saint Mary’s School’s Dan Sepke, costumes by Nora Murphy, stage management by Leanne Norton Heintz, assistant stage management by Jason Hassell, and set design by Deb Royals, with assistance from Deb Lederer.

“The Justice Theater Project (JTP) is an advocacy and activist theater company whose mission is to use the performing arts to bring to the fore of public attention the needs of the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed. Each year, JTP presents a diverse combination of original works, main stage productions, and community-outreach events focusing on issues of social justice.”

"Black Nativity" musical director Carolyn Colquitt leads the choir during the Raleigh Christmas Parade

"Black Nativity" music director Carolyn Colquitt leads the choir during the Raleigh Christmas Parade

Justice Theater Project managing director Melissa Zeph adds, “After three years of planning, JTP is launching our first year of shows in downtown Raleigh during the holiday season. Pre-sales for large groups went on sale in early October, and the matinee on Dec. 18th sold out in three weeks. Out of all four shows, we have just [a few] tickets left on Sunday night at 8 p.m. [and the v]enue seats 340.

“Needless to say,” Zeph says, “we are so pleased that this endeavor has been embraced by the community. Our plan is to bring it back each year as an annual family event, introducing some new songs to keep it fresh. It just goes to show that a multicultural professional offering was very needed during the holidays.”

SECOND OPINION: Dec. 3rd Raleigh, NC Midtown Raleigh News preview by Lori D.R. Wiggins:

The Justice Theater Project presents BLACK NATIVITY at 8 p.m. Dec. 16 and 17 and 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 18 in Pittman Auditorium at Saint Mary’s School, 900 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27603.

TICKETS: $20 ($15 for students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel) and $12 for groups of 10 or more.

BOX OFFICE: (Note 1: All performances, except the 8 p.m. Dec. 18th show, are SOLD OUT).

INFORMATION: 919/264-7089 or





DIRECTIONS/PARKING: (Note 2: Please enter the Saint Mary’s School campus through Gate 4 on Saint Mary’s St.).

Note 3: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh ( will audio describe the 2 p.m. Dec. 18th performance.


Black Nativity: (National Center of Afro-American Artists) and (Wikipedia).

Langston Hughes: ( and (Wikipedia).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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