Teens from Birmingham and around the state will celebrate Black History Month on Feb. 13 with a play honoring the life of A.G. Gaston at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Join the young actors of ArtPlay’s “Make It Happen” Performing Ensemble as they take audiences on a tour of the life of Alabama’s own A.G. Gaston in the original play "A.G. Gaston: The Man, the Mogul and His Mission." This production tells the story of Arthur George Gaston, who became one of the greatest business leaders and entrepreneurs of his time and overcame many obstacles out of the depths of poverty, to emerge into unprecedented success. Written and directed by ArtPlay’s own Alicia Johnson-Williams, this is a fascinating and inspirational story that features poetry, song and dance. Gaston, the grandson of slaves, left a fortune of millions and an incredible business empire and was deemed a hero second to none.
ArtPlay’s MIH Performing Ensemble will present the show at 10 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, in UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, 1200 10th Ave. South. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for children. Call 205-975-2787 or visit www.AlysStephens.org for more details.
Born in 1892, Gaston became one of Alabama’s most successful African-American business owners. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Gaston “had a knack for seeing a business need and filling that niche.” Gaston founded his first business, the Booker T. Washington Burial Society, to help poor blacks afford funerals. He founded the Booker T. Washington Business College after noticing a need for skilled typists and clerks in his businesses. Gaston continued to fulfill needs and expand his empire by adding businesses, including the Vulcan Realty and Investment Company, the A.G. Gaston Home for Senior Citizens, the WENN-FM and WAGG-AM radio stations, S & G Public Relations Company, and the A.G. Gaston Motel, where many in the Civil Rights movement stayed while in Birmingham. He used his wealth to offer financial support to the leaders of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. He continued to amass honors and accolades and expanded his empire even late in life, with the A.G. Gaston Construction Company at age 94. He died in 1996 at the age of 103.
ArtPlay is the Alys Stephens Center’s home for arts education. Student performers in the MIH Performing Ensemble must audition each fall. The performers must research, write, rehearse and perform all year to prepare for their big show, presented each year during Black History Month. The MIH Ensemble requires a yearlong commitment to all rehearsals, performances and activities. Students selected for the ensemble also participate in ArtPlay’s Martin Hames Arts Mentoring Program.
ArtPlay’s 2015-2016 MIH Performing Ensemble is De’Marquez Boleware of Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School, Montgomery; Francesca Charley of Duran Junior High North, Pell City; Classie Childress of Centerpoint High School; Phillip (Chris) Craig of Bush Hills Middle School; Annaiya Davis, Jeremiah Davis and Zeniah Davis of Parker High School; Lillian Davis of Alabama School of Fine Arts; Morrigan Davis of Inverness Elementary; Reagan Davison of Ramsay High School; Miriam Ellison of Fultondale Elementary School; Nia Ellison of Bragg Middle School; Zoey Sunshine Jenkins, home school/Everest Academy; Myla Johnson of Phillips Academy; Imperess Jones of Glen Iris Elementary School; Zhevyn Jones and Judsonjahta “JJ” Jordan of Ramsay High School; Shukuru “Alec” Jordan and Stella Jordan of W.J. Christian Elementary; Chalen Law of Minor Community School; Kelan Millican of Alabama Waldorf School; Leah Nelson of Phillips Academy; Donovan Powe of St. Barnabas Catholic School; Nalin Reed of Saint Aloysius Catholic School; Bradley Seals and Elliott Williams of Brock’s Gap Intermediate School; Miracle Tripp of Pinson Valley Elementary; and Victoria Wheeler of Bragg Middle School.