Spiritual, colorful beauty at West Philly theater tribute to African Diaspora

Theatre in the X staged a world premiere of “Beast of Nubia.”

A scene from 'The Beast of Nubia' by Theatre in the X

A scene from 'The Beast of Nubia' by Theatre in the X

Hanbit Kwon / For Billy Penn
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One West Philadelphia park was transformed into a fairytale last weekend.

Local troupe Theatre in the X staged the world premiere of The Beast of Nubia on Aug. 4 at at Malcolm X Park. The play tells the story of a bygone land, where fantastical creatures interact with characters who are actually very relatable.

As the theater company described it:

In the deserts of ancient Nubia there is a magical kingdom guarded by a monstrous beast. When a merchant wrongs the beast his eldest daughter agrees to sacrifice herself in his place. What follows is a grand adventure filled with romance and excitement, as two very different people learn to cope with one another.

Written by Jonathan Bethea and directed by Steve Wright, the show features live drumming by percussionist Karen Smith, African-inspired music composed by Dwayne Allistair, and unique costumes influenced by the African Diaspora by Mo’Tiff Designs — all of which added up to an intensely spiritual spectacle that melds art, history and emotion.

It’s the kind of thing Theatre in the X was born to do.

Live drumming by percussionist Karen Smith

Live drumming by percussionist Karen Smith

Hanbit Kwon / For Billy Penn

Founded by Walter DeDhields, LaNeshe Miller-White and Carlo Campbell in 2013, Theatre in the X provides opportunities to actors, directors, and playwrights of color to create professional-level theater experiences accessible to the African-American community at large. Last year the group put on a much-acclaimed production of The Wiz.

This year they went with something original. The full cast for Beast of Nubia includes Niya Colbert, Carlo Campbell, Walter DeShields, Richard Bradford, Tasha Holmes, Janae Rockemore, Eric Carter, Ruth Oliver, Mark Christie, Charvez Grant, Kim Robinson and Joan Coates.

Two more performances will follow on Sunday Aug. 11 and 18, both at 5 p.m. Be sure to BYOC (bring your own chair) and come hungry for local food vendors, like West Philly favorite Atiya Ola’s Spirit First Foods.

Here’s 20 photos that capture some of the spiritual, colorful beauty of the night.

The full cast, entering the performance

The full cast, entering the performance

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'The Beast'

'The Beast'

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The stage is entirely open to the air

The stage is entirely open to the air

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Right: Niya Colbert as Nefertiye

Right: Niya Colbert as Nefertiye

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Prince Kashta in full regalia

Prince Kashta in full regalia

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Nefertiye's two jealous sisters conspire

Nefertiye's two jealous sisters conspire

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Eric Cater as Ali

Eric Cater as Ali

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Walter DeShields as Hasani

Walter DeShields as Hasani

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The Goddess Hathor

The Goddess Hathor

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Carlo Campbell as Prince Kashta

Carlo Campbell as Prince Kashta

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The joyous finale

The joyous finale

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LaNeshe Miller-White is the Executive Director of Theatre in the X

LaNeshe Miller-White is the Executive Director of Theatre in the X

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'Beast of Nubia' director Steve Wright

'Beast of Nubia' director Steve Wright

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In the center: actor Carlo Campbell with playwright Jonathan Bethea

In the center: actor Carlo Campbell with playwright Jonathan Bethea

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Center: Richard Bradford as Menna

Center: Richard Bradford as Menna

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Hanbit Kwon / For Billy Penn

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