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Joyful story, joyful noise

Published Nov. 29, 2006

The next few weeks are all about the Nativity. There will be pageants filled with cute children, lavish church productions and movies about Christ's birth.

In St. Petersburg, Bob Devin Jones is trying to establish another holiday tradition steeped in the Christmas story. This is the third year he will direct Black Nativity, a free performance for the community.

For those unfamiliar with the work by writer Langston Hughes, Black Nativity recounts the story of the birth of Christ through gospel music and "lots of spirited dancing," Devin Jones said.

It's "a very wonderful, joyous show, told with gospel music, but it is very ecumenical,'' said Devin Jones, who directs the show.

Black Nativity, which will be presented this weekend at the Palladium Theater, has a multiracial cast of about 40. Rehearsals have been taking place over the past two months.

"We have a lot of talent in our community. Some of the dancers and singers are children,'' Devin Jones said.

The production also features actor Sharon Scott and the choreography of Paulette Walker Johnson. LaTerry Butler is the show's musical director.

Though Black Nativity has its own music, the play is open to other selections, making it "a living breathing thing'' from year to year, Devin Jones said.

"This is a special thing. I don't want to say it's church, but it is very much like gathering in a circle and making a joyful noise. ... It's an hour and 15 minutes and you go out on the wings of a dove."

If you go

A pair of free shows

Black Nativity will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Palladium Theater, 253 Fifth Ave. N, St. Petersburg.

The show is sponsored by the Mahaffey Foundation for the Performing Arts and supported by the Studio @620, Soulful Arts Dance Academy, the city of St. Petersburg, the Pinellas County Cultural Council and the state Division of Cultural Affairs.

Pick up free tickets at the box office. Call 822-3590 or visit