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‘Black Nativity’ returns to Karamu stage after a 3 year absence with local artist Kailyn Mack as a principal dancer

December 22, 2018

‘Black Nativity’ returns to Karamu stage after a 3 year absence with local artist Kailyn Mack as a principal dancer

After a short absence, Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity” has returned to Karamu House, with shows running through Sunday, Dec. 30.

This time around, Reggie Kelly, a Karamu alum, is handling the directorial duties. For those who have not had the opportunity to witness the play, it follows the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey, according to the Bible, using song and dance. It culminates in the birth of Christ.

Making her debut at Karamu is dancer Kailyn Mack. She plays Mary.

As one of the principal dancers, Mack gracefully moves about the stage, along with the other principals, to the sound of gospel singers accompanied by a live orchestra.

A brief departure from her dance performance comes when she gets to be the voice of a sheep.

“My only speaking part is playing a sheep along with one of the other actors,” Mack said in a phone interview. “Originally, during rehearsals, I went in doing the part making what I thought were sheep sounds. But later, I found out Kelly wanted us to actually speak using sheep puppets. You don’t actually see us. The sheep are chastising the shepherd boy about how he’s watching over the baby. At one point, we break out singing Janet Jackson’s ‘No Sleep,’” she said laughing.

Mack, 25, started modern dance in the seventh grade while attending the Cleveland School of the Arts. Right after graduation in 2012, she studied dance at Wright State University, where she received her bachelor of fine arts degree in 2016.

For the past few summers, she’s taught dance at Karamu’s Summer Camps. “Black Nativity” may not be for everyone. But Mack assures skeptics that they will leave inspired.

“I would say, ‘Be ready and open to experience something you have probably never experienced before,’ ” she said. “I guess it could depend on your level of spirituality. It’s a presentation that will make you laugh, smile and maybe shed a tear. “The spiritual ‘The Blood Still Works’ is performed at the beginning of the show. That song resonates with both young and old. Especially those in the church. Ultimately, the production will do something for your soul and your heart. Even if you came in kicking and screaming,” she said with a chuckle.

When she’s not shopping around for her next big theater break, Mack is busy doing her day gig at Amazon.

“I currently work for Amazon,” said Mack. “But I’m going for auditions in my spare time, looking for that next big break. Down the road, I’d like to do perform on cruise ships; this way, I won’t have to relocate permanently. “I’d like to act on Broadway. I just want to keep building my resume and doing what I love.”

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