This month, more than a dozen Christmas-themed plays and musicals open in theaters across San Diego County. They all have different themes and stories, but virtually all of them are told from a white perspective.
That changes this weekend with the world premiere of “1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas” at the New Village Arts Theater in Carlsbad. Commissioned in February 2020 and developed in weekly Zoom meetings and a trio of workshops over the nearly two years since, San Diego playwright Dea Hurston’s new vacation musical is a contemporary vacation story on a African American family. It takes place in the beachfront home of family matriarch Dorothy Black, who has been hosting a Christmas brunch for 30 years. This year, Dorothy upsets her son, James Jr., and their extended family by announcing that this brunch will be her last, and she has found a new love after 20 years of widowhood.
New Village Arts Executive Artistic Director Kristianne Kurner designed the project by asking Hurston and a team of local artists of color – Frankie Alicea-Ford, Kevin “Blax” Burroughs and Milena (Sellers) Phillips – to write a musical based on their own vacation experiences. . Delicia Turner Sonnenberg was hired to direct and Joy Yvonne Jones was hired as a producer. And last spring, singer, musician and arranger John-Mark McGaha of Birmingham, Ala., Was hired to adapt the music and serve as the show’s musical director.
McGaha is Hurston’s distant cousin – her great-great-grandmother and great-grandmother were sisters – who met her on a Facebook page two years ago. McGaha is traveling the country in a tribute show for Stevie Wonder, and Hurston has been commissioned by the Old Globe to develop her live comedy “I Want to Marry Stevie Wonder”. Since bonding over Wonder’s music in 2019, the cousins have spoken over the phone every week and they first met last July after he volunteered to put in music some of the songs on the show and make new arrangements for traditional Christmas carols and spirituals.
“I’m in this because I love my cousin,” McGaha said. “I love the story she writes. I believe in her mission to produce theater that teaches us to love each other and see each other’s beauty. I believe in her.
McGaha, married with five children and director of worship and contemporary arts at Trinity United Methodist Church in Homewood, Ala., Said what makes “1222 Oceanfront” unique is the way it presents a authentic and positive portrayal of black family life in America.
“The stories attached to black families and black men are sometimes poorly presented and can be very upsetting,” McGaha said. “What she’s done is just phenomenal. Dea’s ability to blend authenticity, charm, and humor to address narratives involving race, culture, age, marriage, sibling rivalries, and love at different stages of life will make you laugh and cry at the same time and at the same time uncomfortable and pleasantly surprised. ”
Hurston said she was grateful to Kurner for going the extra mile to make sure every detail, including the interior of Dorothy’s home, accurately portrayed real black family life in America. She is also thrilled with the chemistry between Phillips (who plays Dorothy) and Victor Morris, who plays Dorothy’s new love, Victor. And she loves McGaha’s new music and arrangements, which turns “Silent Night” into a love song and “What Child is This” into a protest song.
Hurston’s plays are known for their humor and honesty, and she said this script also deals with how a family deals with trauma – in this case, the death of Dorothy’s husband 20 years ago, which she and her son never treated properly.
“I feel great about this show,” said Hurston. “Just hearing the actors laugh during rehearsals means the world to me. It was very exciting to see it come to life.
‘1222 Oceanfront: A Black Family Christmas’
When: Opens Saturday and ends December 26th. Session times, Wednesday at 2 p.m. 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. 8 p.m. on Fridays. 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays.
Or: New Village Arts, 2787 State St., Carlsbad
Tickets: $ 20 to $ 59
Telephone: (760) 433-3245
In line: newvillagearts.org
COVID protocols: Full vaccination required at least 14 days after second injection, or negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours from date of performance. Masks compulsory inside for all.