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Talking Art with Karen Roebuck and Joseph Obleton

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The gospel song play Black Nativity will be performed December 10-12, 2021, at the Playcrafters Barn Theatre in Moline. Written by Langston Hughes, the play re-tells the story of the Nativity with an all-Black cast, combining dance, narrative and folk spirituals with Christmas carols performed in a gospel style.

The acclaimed poet and playwright Langston Hughes was one of the earliest innovators in jazz poetry, employing rhythm and repetitive phrases evocative of jazz music to comment insightfully on Black life in America from the 1920’s through the 1960’s. Black Nativity was initially performed in 1961, and has become a highly anticipated annual celebration since that time in many cities across the country.

Listen to the conversation here with co-directors Karen Roebuck and Joseph Obleton about the ongoing impact Black Nativity has had on their lives after initially seeing it decades ago, why this play continues to resonate in our current era, and the importance of oral storytelling traditions.

The cast performed recently at the 2021 Kwik Star Festival of Trees celebration in Davenport, and you can listen to one of their songs here, featuring Joseph Obleton as soloist.

Performances will be held Friday, Dec 10 at 7:30 PM, Saturday, Dec 11 at 7:30 PM and Sunday, Dec 12 at 3:30 PM. The Playcrafters Barn Theatre is located at 4950 35th Ave in Moline, IL. Tickets cost $15 and seating is by general admission.

Carolyn Martin joined WVIK as a host of Talking Art in 2017. A long-time fan of NPR programming with a love of storytelling and all art forms, she is thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with creative people who beautify our community and make the Quad Cities region an even better place to live.