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COVID bringing more drama to Black Theatre Troupe stage ahead of popular 'Black Nativity' show

Posted at 9:24 AM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-01 11:24:56-05

PHOENIX — Coronavirus continues to bring more drama to the stage than Black Theatre Troupe has ever seen.

After being forced to cancel multiple performances for the first time ever, now their most popular show of the year, the often sold-out Black Nativity, is caught in limbo and it could have major financial implications for the theater.

Executive Director David Hemphill says their production of Langston Hughes' Black Nativity makes up about 20% of their annual budget and is their best opportunity to draw bigger crowds toward their other performances throughout the year.

With rising coronavirus cases, Hemphill realizes opening the auditorium may not be possible so he's trying to figure out how to recoup some of the projected income of the 14 planned performances and still offer their audience a bit of tradition.

"We all have to be resilient, particularly within the arts. It's a whole new ballgame, it's a brand-new world," said Hemphill.

Among the options being considered is creating a re-mastered DVD from past performances, releasing an audio version, live-streaming the play, or allowing in a smaller, masked audience with safety protocols.

He has also considered an outdoor venue but admits the cost to rent a space and heaters with dropping evening temperatures may not be financially feasible.

Hemphill says they don't need much time to rehearse as it's an annual show and just needs a few updates to the second act which is typically a gospel concert. However, they still need time to advertise and potentially edit if they go with the DVD option.

The theater hopes to make a decision by the end of the first week of December.

"As they say, the show must go on, so we're hopeful."