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Musical Black Nativity Story At Fresno Pacific

Black Nativity, a musical celebration of the Christmas story written by a light of the Harlem Renaissance and directed by a leader of the Fresno theater community, will be the featured fall 2023 mainstage production at Fresno Pacific University.

Performances will be Dec. 8 through 17, 2023, in Lin Performance Studio in Warkentine Culture and Arts Center, 4838 E. Butler Ave., on the main FPU campus. Admission is $15 for general audiences and $10 seniors, military, students and FPU alumni, staff and faculty. Tickets available at the door and in advance at Black Nativity Presented by Shine! & FPU Theater - Cheddar Up.

Dates and times are: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8; Saturday, Dec. 9; Thursday, Dec. 14; Friday, Dec. 15; and Saturday, Dec. 17. Matinee performances will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8; Sunday, Dec. 10; Saturday, Dec. 16; and Sunday, Dec. 17.

Black Nativity is an adaptation of the Nativity story written by Langston Hughes with lyrics and music from traditional Christmas carols sung in gospel style and some songs created specifically for the show. Hughes (1901-1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright and columnist and one of the earliest innovators of jazz poetry.

Tony Sanders, founder and artistic director of Fresno’s Shine! Theatre, serves as artistic director for this production. He calls the play, “Hughes’ attempt to remind us that the story of the Nativity is for everyone.” The cast features players from a variety of ages and ethnic backgrounds.

First performed in December 1961, the play was among the first Off-Broadway productions by an African American. The show had a successful tour of Europe in 1962 and has been performed annually in Boston since 1970 and in Seattle since 1998. Black Nativity has also been produced as an album and made into a film.

For his work at FPU, Sanders wants to help artists develop their craft and grow as individuals.

“If they have a strong Christian faith this is a safe place to do that,” he said. “Faith and art are not mutually exclusive—they can and should work together.”

Founded in 2005, Shine! is a nationally recognized company dedicated to creating “quality theatrical experiences for all, instilling an early appreciation of literature and the fine arts in tomorrow’s artists and citizens and providing outstanding educational opportunities and training in the theatre arts,” according to its website (About | shineonfresno (

Fresno Pacific University is the Central Valley’s Christian university, offering undergraduate, graduate and seminary programs that stress solid academic preparation and a strong ethical foundation to more than 2,900 traditional and adult students on the main campus in southeast Fresno and regional campuses in North Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield and Merced as well as online. The university also reaches about 8,000 students through professional development studies. FPU is a Hispanic Serving Institution, with a Hispanic student population of 56 percent. FPU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and ranked in the top tier among western universities—master’s category by U.S. News & World Report.