What happens when Nativity meets the 21st Century? Murder, mayhem and romance for the streets. I tell ya, it'll be the best seller!
By FELICIA C. HANEY
This holiday season couldn’t have been a more perfect hyperbole come true than when artist Myron Davis and his wife were blessed with a new baby boy right before Thanksgiving. The irony is, Cleveland’s son was just shy of delivering his own 6-year-old baby to the art world – appropriately titled “A Son is Given.”
“A Son is Given” is Davis’ brainchild in the form of a stage play initially birthed out of New Community Bible Fellowship in Cleveland Heights. Davis has been a member of the church since 2001 when he returned home after a brief mainstream singing career garnered him national attention as a budding R&B artist. But, he would soon find out that “luck don’t always play fair” and his “destiny” wasn’t paved by a road of gold records. Well… maybe eventually, but not courtesy of Island Records. Fast forward nearly 15 years and now Davis knows he was predestined to follow the road of Godly intentions. And what he intends to do this weekend is tell his Godly story chocked full of murder, scandal and mayhem at Playhouse Square’s Hanna Theater.
When I first heard that Myron Davis was doing this production I thought, “Is that the same Myron from [Cleveland] Heights High?”
Yup. That’s right [laughs]. Same one. It’s such a small world. But, I love how all these Heights alumni are really making things happen.
Speaking of which, I see you’re still doing big things.
This is an exciting time of year. My wife and I just had a baby boy three weeks ago today. So it was kinda like a double blessing that we’re putting out this play “A Son is Given” and we were given a son.
Is this your first child?
Noooo. I’ve got two teenagers, one six year old and now the baby.
Congrats! Well, tell me about the production…
Rewind back to 2006. I was the minister of music at the time – and I still am – and I had an idea for doing a modern-day version of the Nativity story. Since I grew up in church I knew the story, but I never really heard it told from an urban perspective. What I mean by that is with some ebonics, some slang… the young lady being pregnant and the fiancé is not the father and just that whole drama. I’m like that sounds like the ‘hood. That sounds like where I grew up. So, I was like, let’s put this into urban language and see if we can get people to relate to it. Not just as an old biblical story but something that is fresh. So, that’s how “A Son is Given” started.
The first year, we did it at our church with a small group of people. We did it right there on our stage and by the next year we planned to do it at Tri-C – bigger crowd, bigger stage, a little bit more professional. But, it was a lot of work; and we didn’t quite have the team to continue it. So 2006 and 2007 were the only two years we did it. Then last year our pastor said “let’s revisit that script, we’re looking for something to do for Christmas.” I was like “cool.” I went back in, freshened it up. I redid all the music – there are 14 new tracks – so for people who have seen it before it is different from the first year, a whole new soundtrack. On top of that we’re taking it out of the church so it doesn’t have the stigma of a church play. That way we have an opportunity to reach an audience outside of our community with the Gospel without the stereotypical feel of sitting in a church production. We’re striving really hard to make this a Broadway-esque production of the Nativity.
It’s a very interesting concept. Why did you choose to do a ballet?
I’ve always loved dance and in American culture there are so many shows focused on dance. I know that dance is becoming more mainstream. So it was really about timing. The initial production wasn’t a ballet. We featured some dance, but it wasn’t any particular style of dance. Ballet has a sense of discipline with it. It’s more distinguished, it’s more elegant… in my mind anyway. We did an open casting call for people who were skilled in modern dance, ballet, we were also looking for hip-hop dancers. That’s how it came about. When I imagined the Virgin Mary in my mind in terms of modern day, I imagined her being a ballerina – someone elegant, poised, disciplined, strong. She had to be strong willed in my story because I wanted to have her not be so excited about this arranged marriage… “I wanna pick my own husband [imitating modern-day Mary]” The term “urban ballet” just sounded like a mix of where I’m from with a really sophisticated form of art. I just thought it was a cool mix.
I hear there are 13 dance scenes…
Yeah, it’s a lot. In fact there are probably 14 dance scenes. It’s more than any of the choreographers we’ve hired have done in one piece. That’s because when I started, I figured a good album was about 14 songs. See, I’m a songwriter. I knew I wouldn’t be dancing but I wanted to see a bunch of dancing. These dancers we picked are all native Clevelanders except maybe three of them. All of them have some incredible stamina in order to pull something like this together.
How long does it take to pull off something of this caliber?
I started at the end of 2011. We started soliciting for choreographers as early as January. We met with three or four choreographers before we chose Kenya Woods, our main choreographer for this piece. Kenya works at the Cleveland School of the Arts, the lower campus. She actually recommended some of the other people like Nina Domingue Glover, a very, very talented director and actor. She’s a mentoring director for me in this production. Diane Macintyre is a mentoring choreographer. She keeps us focused with her great history of dance. She is literally a legend.
The difference with this one is that we have some great professional people. Normally we have a production at our church with our volunteers but this year, we wanted a professional staff so that when we went into the Hanna Theater, it wouldn’t be like a group of amateurs coming into a place that was… [laughs] above their pay grade. We hired people who knew what they were doing so now all we have to do is perform.
I read a quote from you that said it was important for you to do this so people have a deeper sense of what Christmas means. What exactly did you mean by that and why is that important?
One of the reasons that this story means a lot to me – especially as a Christian – is although we celebrate the birth of Jesus, a lot of times the [meaning] gets lost in gift giving/receiving and a lot of holiday shopping. But, this particular birth is the most significant birth of all time because of the savior of the world being born into the world as a human being. It’s hard to understand and fathom. It’s like… what does that mean? God came down in the flesh of man in the form of a baby and lived 33 years… What does that mean? Just massaging that concept in is why I thought it was important to put it in modern-day terms. With it being so hard to understand in general, a lot of times we separate ourselves from it and we don’t look at these characters as real people with feelings and fear. We don’t think of baby Jesus as being the kind of baby that may have had a cold or that his mother would be concerned if he had a sniffle. I thought it was really important for our generation to grab hold of the reality of Jesus’ birth and with that; it will prayerfully change people’s lives.
Is there any chance of expanding this to more dates?
Personally I would love to see it expand. There are quite a few things I have in mind for next go-round. But, we’re kinda just taking it one step at a time right now. It was definitely a major undertaking. I admire and applaud people who put on productions. I don’t know if it will be next year or if we’ll take a year to assess, but as of right now… It’s definitely drawing attention and getting a buzz out there.
Where are you with your personal music career? Have you hung up your secular shoes?
After the release in ’98 of the “Destiny” CD I pretty much left that secular market. I do still make music, but it’s all independent. I’m not striving for any type of record deal. I’m blessed to have this job where I can make music full time. I still produce. I’ve been working with artists like Conya Doss, who’s working on her seventh CD now. I’ve worked on two albums for gospel group Malachi 3. Since then I’ve released two other records, one in 2003 entitled “Free” and then in 2008 I released “Myron in the Works.” So, I’m still doing music, just doing it low key. Wherever the Lord will take my effort, that’s where I’ll go.
Tickets for the show are $25-$40 and are available at Playhousesquare.org and Newcommunitybible.org
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