05-20-2018  10:47 am      •     
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NEWS BRIEFS

Raina Croff to Speak at Architectural Heritage Center

'When the Landmarks are Gone: Older African Americans, Place, and Change in N/NE Portland’ describes SHARP Walking Program ...

Portland Playhouse Presents August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ Through June 10

May 20 performance will include discussion on mental health; June 10 performance will be followed by discussion of fatherhood ...

Peggy Houston-Shivers Presents Benefit Concert for Allen Temple CME

Concert to take place May 20 at Maranatha Church ...

Family Friendly Talent Show, May 18

Family Fun Night series continues at Matt Dishman Community Center ...

US Marshals, police arrest Vermont fugitive in Oregon

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The U.S. Marshals Service says a missing sex offender from Vermont has been arrested in Oregon.The Marshals say 55-year-old James Rivers was arrested May 16 in Cottage Grove, Oregon, by deputy marshals and local police. It's unclear if he has an attorney.Authorities...

Oregon State study says it's OK to eat placenta after all

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — First experts said eggs are bad for you, then they say it's OK to eat them. Is red wine good for your heart or will it give you breast cancer?Should you eat your placenta?Conflicting research about diets is nothing new, but applying the question to whether new mothers...

State sees need to reduce elk damage in the Skagit Valley

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — Elk are easy to spot against the green backdrop of the Skagit Valley, where much of the resident North Cascades elk herd that has grown to an estimated 1,600 is found.For farmers in the area — especially those who grow grass for their cattle or to sell to...

Famed mini sub's control room to become future exhibit

BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) — The U.S. Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport has a new addition to its archives — the salvaged control room of the legendary, one-of-a-kind Cold War-era miniature submersible NR-1.Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy, conceived the idea for the...

OPINION

Golfing While Black Is Not a Crime

Grandview Golf Club asks five Black women to leave for golfing too slow ...

Discovering the Best of Black America in 2018

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis discusses the DTU Journalism Fellowship & Scholarship Program ...

Will Israel’s Likud Party Ever Respect the Rights of Palestinians?

Bill Fletcher weighs in on the precarious future of the two-state solution between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people ...

The Future of Medicinal Marijuana in Pets

Dr. Jasmine Streeter says CBD-derived products show beneficial therapeutic benefits for pets ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

2018 midterms: An early heat for 2020 Democrats?

ATLANTA (AP) — Look closely enough at the 2018 midterm campaign and you'll see the stirrings of a Democratic scramble to reclaim the White House from President Donald Trump.The leading players — from established national figures such as former Vice President Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders...

Northern states taking down vestiges of racism, intolerance

DETROIT (AP) — A nearly 80-year-old statue depicting a European settler with a weapon in his hand towering over a Native American that some say celebrates white supremacy has been dismantled by crews in southwestern Michigan's Kalamazoo.And at the University of Michigan, regents have voted...

Guess who's coming to Windsor? Royal ceremony weds cultures

BURLINGTON, New Jersey (AP) — With a gospel choir, black cellist and bishop, Oprah, Serena and Idris Elba in the audience and an African-American mother-of-the-bride, Saturday's wedding of Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle was a blend of the solemn and the soulful.Guess who's...

ENTERTAINMENT

'13 Reasons Why' premiere canceled after Texas shooting

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Netflix canceled the premiere party for its second season of the teen drama "13 Reasons Why" because of a school shooting near Houston.The streaming service announced the cancellation hours before the scheduled premiere and red carpet event, citing the Friday morning...

'Shoplifters' wins Palme d'Or, grand prize to Spike Lee

A tumultuous Cannes Film Festival concluded Saturday with the Palme d'Or awarded to Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Shoplifters," a tender portrait of a poor, impoverished family, while Harvey Weinstein accuser Asia Argento vowed justice will come to all sexual predators.At the closing...

'Jurassic Park' dinosaur expert's next big thing: holograms

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Forget the gray, green and brown dinosaurs in the "Jurassic Park" movies. Paleontologist Jack Horner wants to transport people back in time to see a feathered Tyrannosaurus rex colored bright red and a blue triceratops with red fringe similar to a rooster's comb.Horner,...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

'Deadpool 2' ends Avengers' box-office reign, rakes in 5M

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Deadpool and his foul-mouthed crew of misfits and malcontents have taken down the...

Iraq's al-Sadr, promising reform, is constrained by Iran

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's Muqtada al-Sadr, the maverick Shiite cleric whose political coalition beat out Iran's...

Company in Cuba plane crash had received safety complaints

HAVANA (AP) — The Mexican charter company whose 39-year-old plane crashed in Havana had been the subject of...

Palestinian publicly sets himself on fire in Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A 20-year-old Palestinian is in critical condition after publicly setting...

Iran says EU political support not enough, urges investment

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's state TV is reporting that the country's foreign minister has urged the European...

The Latest: Maduro's challengers criticize 'red points'

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on Sunday's presidential election in Venezuela (all times local):1:01...

Actors on stage in "Black Nativity"
By The Skanner News

It isn’t often when actors for a Christmas-themed play describe a rehearsal as “having church.” But there’s not much that is typical about the limited run of Black Nativity, a soul-stirring, foot-tapping, Gospel-singing good time, based on a musical written by Harlem Renaissance poet and playwright Langston Hughes.

“This is a piece of heaven right here,” said Richard Greer, 59, who said he has been singing since he was a teenager. “It’s the actual grassroots part of where the black spiritual music really comes from. The actual essence of what it is.”

During its two-weekend run, which opened Dec. 11, the play uses a cultural lens to retell the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus Christ, using scripture, interpretive dance, and lots of singing. Unlike most theatrical productions, the musical:

  • Will be performed in a small church on Mallory Avenue.
  • Features a cast of 10 singers, only three of whom are experienced actors.
  • Highlights choir members from predominantly black churches in Portland.

“When it comes to gospel and spirituals, that’s something inherited from our ancestors,” said Jerry Foster, who directs the play. “It’s a cultural thing.”

Black Nativity is produced by PassinArt: A Theatre Company, the longest-running black theater company in Portland. When Foster was trying to cast the play, he reached out to musicians he knew at three churches: Highland Christian Center, Emmanuel Temple Full Gospel Pentecostal Church and St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church.

“You can teach someone who can sing to act, but you can’t teach an actor to sing,” Foster explained. “That’s a big difference.”

Tanetta Martin, 46, said she was asked to participate in Black Nativity by her church’s musical director, who also brought along a few additional members of the church’s praise team.

“I’ve been singing all my life,” said Martin, whose only previous theatrical experience was a small part in a church play. “I don’t consider myself a professional. I’m a worshipper.”

At a recent rehearsal, performers straggled in from other church-based rehearsals and singing commitments. Greer warmed up by singing as he paced the sidewalk outside the church. Inside, Foster was anxious to begin. He had emailed each of the singers the words to a new song and it was time to see how they sounded.

“Do you know the rhythm,” Foster asked. “Let’s get up and let’s work.”

He was promptly corrected by Martin, who advised: “Let’s pray.”

The cast of the holiday musical stood among the pews and held hands as Greer offered a stirring prayer that acknowledged those who were there and asked for safe travel for those who were still on their way to rehearsal.

“I started to pass the collection plate,” Foster joked, afterward.

A vocal teacher from Emmanuel Temple, CJ Wells, then promptly led the group in the new song. “Right there,” he demanded, demonstrating the right chord. “Rise up, shepherd and follow. It’s high, not low.”

Soloist Tracey Jenkins, 40, says the songs in the play remind her of “old time religion. These are the songs that really touched people’s souls and they gave God praise and they trusted him, no matter what they were going through.”

This year’s production is the fourth time in 20 years that PassinArt has offered Black Nativity as part of its season. From now on, the company would like to mount it as an annual holiday tradition, as it is done in other cities, such as Boston, Atlanta and Seattle.  Foster noted that audience members of all walks of life, whether of faith or not will, enjoy this performance. “It’s a play for everybody because the basic foundation is the music.”

This is the final weekend of the play’s run. On Dec. 18 and 19 the play runs at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday it starts at 3 p.m. All performances are at the Greater St. Stephens Missionary Baptist Church, 3605 NE Mallory Ave.

Admission is $20 in advance; $25 at the door. The group rate ticket is $15 per ticket for purchases of 10 or more tickets. There is no charge charge for children 5 and under, and the charge for children up to age 12 is $5 at the door.

Tickets are available online at www.passinart.net or through JP’s Custom Picture Framing & Gallery, 418 NE Killingsworth, (503) 288-2118, or Elevated Coffee, 5261 NE Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., (971) 255-1296.

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