Birmingham teens create play for Black History Month

A group of Birmingham-area students have created a dynamic black history lesson through song, dance and storytelling with the play, “Extraordinary Americans Who Happen to be …”

   January 26, 2011

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - A group of Birmingham-area students have created a dynamic black history lesson through song, dance and storytelling with the play, "Extraordinary Americans Who Happen to be ..."

The students are part of UAB's Alys Stephens Center Make It Happen Performing Ensemble, a youth performance group. This is the ensemble's third year. Each season interested students audition in the fall for a part in the ensemble. The talented and dedicated teens then spend months writing, rehearsing and finally presenting a public performance of their play on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011, for Black History Month, under the guidance of Alys Stephens Center Teaching Artist Alicia Johnson.

This year's show is a look into the dim past, in order to appreciate the very bright future for the American black man and woman, Johnson says. A few young teens gather at Grandma and Grandpa Loveall's house to talk and celebrate their very exciting new summer jobs, only to learn just how fortunate they are as African-Americans to be the recipients of such opportunities. "I remember a time when black folks would not even be considered to step foot in any of these places you have named except to mop the floor or maybe to cook a meal," says Grandma Loveall, the character played by one of the ensemble's veteran performers, Victoria Thompson.

"Homage is paid to many African-Americans who paved the road to the life and lifestyles we all know today in this great nation," says Johnson, the ensemble's director. The play will feature a snapshot look into the lives of such personalities as Blind Tom, Mary McCleod Bethune, Bojangles, Langston Hughes, Thurgood Marshall, Joe Louis, Nellie Conley, Ophelia Devore, Fred Shuttlesworth, Leotyne Price, Etta James and Ntozake Shange, to mention a few.

UAB's Alys Stephens Center will present a free performance for area school children and two public performances of "Extraordinary Americans Who Happen to be..." - A Celebration of Black History Month. The public performances will take place at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011, in the center, 1200 10th Ave. South. Tickets are $8 for kids, $10 for adults. Call 205-975-2787 or go to www.AlysStephens.org.

About UAB's Alys Stephens Center

The Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, part of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is one of the Southeast's premier performing arts centers, presenting the world's best artists in music, dance, theatre, comedy, film and family entertainment. The ASC's mission is to be a place where the entire community experiences and engages in the arts. The ASC is home to ArtPlay, a new arts education center, UAB departments of Theatre and Music and the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.