NORTH ADAMS -- A unique show that combines elements of hip-hop, poetry and dance to explore issues of race and fatherhood is coming to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts this weekend.
"Word Becomes Flesh," directed and created by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, will play MCLA Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Eleanor Furst Roberts Auditorium.
The show has as great a range as its creator. "Word Becomes Flesh" isn't a play or a concert, but a blend of hip-hop-inspired performance, including poetry, spoken word, live music and dance.
"The piece is constructed as five ensemble actors, supported by a live DJ," Joseph said.
In this hybrid of mediums, the story is told through a young black man's letters to his unborn sons throughout the course of a nine-month pregnancy. The letters and the advice given to the future generation speak, sometimes with rage, to race and gender issues facing America today.
The show delves into the choices for a father; to leave or stay, to support or not. Joseph uses this backdrop to reflect on "what it's like to be a black man in America today," said MCLA Cultural Resource Center Director Jonathan Secor.
Secor said that MCLA usually isn't able to host a show of this magnitude, but the Cultural Resource Center has partnered with Williams College to put the event together.
Before the performance, MCLA will hold a free panel discussion at 6 p.m. Saturday called "Trayvon: Race and Being Black in America" at the MCLA Church Street Center, which will explore many of the same themes addressed in "Word Becomes Flesh."
Along with themes of black identity in modern America, the play explores the difficulties and responsibilities of fatherhood.
Bamuthi said he was inspired to create the show by his own experiences with becoming a father.
"The father's trajectory during pregnancy is undocumented," he said.
He examined his feelings when his partner was pregnant with their child, he said, and he created the show partly out of a "biographical need."
"I just didn't have very many places to turn," he said.
Joseph added, though, that pregnancy is "not an equal journey," and that "pregnancy is a time that should be focused on the mom."
Secor said he has seen "Word Becomes Flesh" three times already at other venues, and found it stunningly beautiful and very powerful.
"It has that edge to it," he said. "It has that hip-hop sensibility."
In its current form, the show has been touring for two and a half years, Joseph said. It has been performed in theaters across the country.
Joseph is originally from New York City, but now lives in Oakland, Calif., with his family and runs The Living Word, a theater company "committed to producing literary performance in the verse of our time.
A renaissance man of the modern generation -- choreographer, spoken word artist, poet, to name a few of his trades -- Joseph described himself as having many goals, and said he was "driven by social justice."
When he first concieved "Word Becomes Flesh," Joseph performed the show entirely by himself. As the show's reputation grew, he received funding to expand it into the six-actor cast it has today.
The elements of "Word Becomes Flesh" are all heavily influenced by hip-hop music.
"I myself am a child of hip-hop," Joseph said.
Secor said while he is neither young nor black, the performance resonates for him.
It speaks to "how we treat each other as people," he said.
The show is certainly known for connecting with a younger audience --- none of the cast is over 40 -- but Joseph said the show can reach everyone.
"Everybody has a birth story," he said.
If you go ...
What: Marc Bamuthi Joseph's ‘Word Becomes Flesh' -- hip-hop-inspired performance with spoken word, live music and dance, exploring fatherhood and the life of an African-American man in America
When: 7:30 Saturday
Where: MCLA Church Street Center, North Adams
Admission: $10 for general admission. $8 for MCLA and Williams alumni; $5 for staff and faculty, and non-MCLA and non-Williams students. Tickets for members and MCLA and Williams students are free.
Information: www.mcla.edu, (413) 662-5204
Before the performance, MCLA will hold a free panel discussion, at 6 p.m. Saturday, called ‘Trayvon: Race and Being Black in America' at the MCLA Church Street Center, which will explore many of the themes in the show.
The panel discussion is free and open to the public.