Twenty-five years ago, to enjoy a theatre performance with an authentically rich depiction of black life, a trip south to the ATL or north to Raleigh and DC was required. In October of 1995, all of that changed when Charleston’s native son, Arthur Gilliard, began telling the stories of our lives. “Art Forms and Theatre Concepts, AFTC, was birthed with a mission to ensure that the African American presence would be included on all stages of the Lowcountry. For the past 23 years we have done that with heart and soul, and a deep love of the craft,” explains Gilliard.
On September 27, at the historic Dock Street Theatre, AFTC will open its 23rd season as part of the MOJA Arts Festival (www.mojafestival.com) with a fan favorite, “Debutante of the Season.”
Previously performed in 1997 and 2003, respectively, Debutante is a comedic, but poignant look inside the household of Samson and Celestine Green and their daughter Ramona. Kyle Taylor (Samson) and Dr. Teresa Smith (Celestine) are veteran stage actors. Rounding out the talented ensemble are Keith Alston (Dr. Kenneth Hodges) and Michele Powe (Miss Mona), who have portrayed a husband and wife in a previous AFTC production. Theatre newcomers Aalayah Williams (Ramona), Darrin Palmer (Xavier Griffith) and Toby Smith (Althea Grace) bring enthusiasm and humor to the production.
The Greens have hit a bump and how they resolve it will make you laugh and warm your heart.
AFTC’s 23rd season holds more surprises. Gilliard explains: “For the first time in our history, we have hired an executive director to steer the reins and our goal is to build our capacity so we can tackle the next 23 years! It’s an exciting time for us, our board, and supporters.” Former congressional candidate and nonprofit consultant, Toby Smith, stepped in the leadership position earlier in this month and noted that “ the arts highlight the best of us, our culture, and our shared values. I’m looking forward to expanding our mission and to helping this organization grow in every way possible.”
But, the changes don’t end there. Season 23 will find AFTC in a new location, in the heart of the historic Cannonborough community. “134 Cannon Street..that location is so special. Our first Christmas performance will be there. We will be looking for some great singers and a few Gullah storytellers. The theme is a Gullah Christmas celebration,” Gilliard added.
As AFTC looks forward to beginning a new chapter, Gilliard reflects on how the company has changed and impacted so many lives. “So many people who started with us are doing amazing things. We are so proud of them! When I think about the beginning, I couldn’t have imagined we would still be here, two decades later. I am so excited about our future and rest assured, as long as there are stories to tell, our mission will be fulfilled.”
Debutante of the Season
9/27-7pm; 9/28-7 pm;
9/29-4 pm; 9/30-3pm