Black Nativity is back at PassinArt, A Theatre Company, the oldest Black theatre company in Portland. The show is a retelling of the Nativity as a celebration of gospel music, first created by famed poet Langston Hughes in 1961. It’s been an almost yearly show at PassinArt, the oldest Black theatre in Portland since 1982. After an in-person return of their Pacific NW Multicultural Festival last summer, PassinArt resumed with determination a full season of three productions.

Dmae Lo Roberts  talked with Jerry Foster, the longtime artistic director of PassinArt, about Black Nativity and an update on their company.

Interview Highlights:

About returning to a season after the pandemic:

“We face the same challenges in any other theater company, here or throughout the country. A lot of folks are not returning back to the seats. A lot of folks don’t know the history of Black theater companies, and Black theater period, which actually started in 1823 in New York. And can you imagine the amount of obstacles that they faced? But they did it and, and as they go down through the years, through the 20s, 30s, the 40s, the 50s, even the 60s, you know, Black theater has been on the forefront and continue to do works for us, but written by us, and with actors to have some work in which to do what they need to do. So, you know, there’s always going to be those challenges.”

Opportunities at the Albina Arts Center….

“A lot of the things that we do from the community we’re going to offer there also. We do our play reading Mondays at the Albina Arts Center, and so that’s one of our biggest things that we’re doing over there. Also we started working with young people out of New Columbia, and so the kids out in that area so eventually we want to be able to bring them into the Center so that they can continue to expand their horizons in in different facets of the arts. There are people here who would much rather go to see a reading, go sit and listen to a reading as opposed to going to see a full production.  And so we decided to let’s offer this for those who want to do that. And plus it gives us an opportunity to utilize a lot of those plays that are there that doesn’t usually make it to the main stage.”

Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity tells the story of the Nativity from an African-American perspective through a combination of scripture, poetry, dance, and song with griot-style narration. Directed by Jerry Foster.

For Tickets, visit Full price: $40.00. Groups of 5+: $38.00. Senior 55+: $35.00/ Student with ID: $27.00. Run time: Approximately 90 minutes, no intermission. Masks are not required, but highly recommended.

Jerry Foster is an actor and director actively involved in the arts within the Portland Metropolitan area for 30 years. Jerry co-founded the Inner City Youth program in 1992. In 1995, he became PassinArt’s Artistic Director and currently serves as Board President. His stage credits and performances include Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, A Soldiers’ Play, Deceptive Love, The Pews, Pill Hill, A Sunbeam, Ragtime, A Raisin in the Sun, Driving Miss Daisy, Big River, and Two Trains Running. Directing credits include Black Nativity, Juneteenth & Kwanza Celebration for the North Portland library, and the Peace Festival for Black Women for Peace. Jerry has worked in news media for over 28 years. In 2019, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Zeta Sigma Omega Chapter presented Jerry with the prestigious Emerald Award for the Arts honoring African American Men for community contributions and leadership.

PassinArt: A Theatre Company is an African American producing theatre company whose mission is to entertain, educate, and inspire artists and audiences while addressing critical issues facing our community; and to celebrate our history and culture.