published Friday, December 16th, 2011

Reimagined 'Nativity' play set to debut at Tivoli

A reimagining of Langston Hughes' 50-year-old play "Black Nativity" will be offered by Destiny Theatre Company on Wednesday and Thursday at the Tivoli Theatre.

"It's a new experience," director Thomas Jones II said of the fourth annual production, which has been renamed "Nativity: A Gospel Music Explosion," "but people will still recognize the core if they've seen it."

The version produced here the last three years began with the biblical story of the birth of Christ from the book of Luke and concluded in the modern urban black church.


  • What: "Nativity: A Gospel Music Explosion."

  • When: 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

  • Where: Tivoli Theatre, 709 Broad St.

  • Admission: $23.50-$26.50 adults, $21-$26.50 seniors/students, $18.50-$20 groups, $10.50-$16.50 children ages 5-12.

  • Phone: 642-8497.

  • Website:

This year's show is entirely contemporary, set at the remnants of a freshly burned-out church. The first part flashes back to the biblical story as it is told by congregation members.

"Each person has [his or her] own point of view," Johnson said, that embodies "the spirit of what the true Christmas really was."

"We're looking at it through a new lens," he said. "It's traditional storytelling" but "from a different vantage point."

Johnson said the eight core actors are from Chattanooga and have been rehearsing here, while the six or seven dancers are from Atlanta and have been rehearsing there. Slightly less than half the cast returns from last year's show.

The two groups will be combined here this weekend, he said.

The song structure of the production remains the same, according to Johnson, but some songs have been removed and some original tunes added. Others have been moved around within the work, he said.

Collaborators describe it as a "hand-clapping, foot-stomping holiday spectacular."

Johnson said another difference from past year's productions is the choreographic work.

"Dance has been highlighted and heightened," he said. "We want to try to make it as much of an event and spectacle as possible."

Johnson said the name change was made because the show may be toured over the next several years and expanded to be more culturally diverse. It was written by Hughes to have an entirely black cast. Johnson said a touring version might have white, black, Latino and Asian cast members.

A portion of proceeds goes to the Bethlehem Center.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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