The Gateway Shopping Plaza, once a popular shopping hub on the Northside, is now a drab town center where the main attraction is Publix. But something inside the Gateway Mall is attracting an audience of its own.
Through the vision of founder Darryl Reuben Hall, Stage Aurora Theatrical Company has been bringing productions to the stage since 2001 and showcasing arts on the Northside.
Stage Aurora continues to make an impact in the community through its Black Arts Festival, now in its seventh year. The festival gives participants an opportunity to show their talents in a variety of art forms. This year’s festival features an Oceanus Tae Kwan Do exhibition in which students will display the teachings of Master Joseph E. Morgan, and a production of the Tony award-wining musical The Wiz featuring 100 Youth Voices. According to Anntoinette Jones, who works for Stage Aurora, the actors (who are mostly students between the ages of 6 and 18) have been working on the production for about two and a half months. She also says that the students won’t be the only ones who will be given the chance to display their talents. Kids of all ages are welcomed to show off their artistic ability to the Stage Aurora audience at the 2014 Youth Talent Explosion.
Though Stage Aurora offers local actors a chance to express themselves on stage, they have also hosted nationally recognized performers at past Black Arts Festivals. Jones says T'Keyah Crystal Keymah (from That’s So Raven), Tony Award winner Melba Moore and Ella Joyce (in a performance of A Rose Among Thorns) were three highlights from past festivals.
The Black Arts Festival spans the July 18-20 weekend, beginning with the Oceanus Tae Kwon Do exhibit on Friday and ending with the 2014 Youth Talent Explosion on Sunday. Performances of The Wiz are Friday and Saturday.