BANGOR, Maine — February is Black History Month and people across the country are honoring the occasion in many ways.
Brian Hurst, a Bangor resident, will celebrate Black History Month at the movies, with his family, to see Tyler Perry’s latest film production, “Madea Goes to Jail,” which opens in cinemas today.
Hurst, a former Bangor High School athlete, musician, gospel-recording artist and music director, played Jeremy in Perry’s original stage production of “Madea Goes to Jail.” The character is a white man in a predominantly African-American production.
Tyler Perry’s films, such as last year’s “The Family That Preys” and “Madea’s Family Reunion” from 2006, are often heartwarming portraits of modern issues and African-American life.
Hurst may be best known as an accomplished gospel singer and songwriter. The success of his album releases — “Brian Hurst” and “Divine Purpose” — has opened doors for him. He placed first in the 2004 regional “Stellar Awards’ Star Search” in Chicago and went on to finish third in the national finals in Houston.
While still working on his musical career, Hurst started touring in his first stage play, “If These Hips Could Talk,” co-produced by Angela Barrow-Dunlap and Marvie Wright. The cast included Billy Dee Williams, Robin Givens, Tichina Arnold, Kim Burrell and Lexi.
Hurst attracted Perry’s attention while acting in the traveling play. After one performance, cast and crew met with Perry backstage. “I was honored to meet [him],” Hurst said.
“I was very surprised when Mr. Perry personally called my home in Bangor and offered me a role in his new play, ‘Madea Goes to Jail.’ This was a chance of a lifetime,” Hurst said, “a fulfilling experience for my career.”
Before that phone call, Hurst was concerned that he would have to move his family out of Maine to meet the demands of his career. “Mr. Perry’s generosity provided my family with everything that we needed to stay in Bangor, Maine,” said Hurst. The stage production of “Madea Goes to Jail” opened in 2005.
The play highlights the antics of one of Perry’s most popular characters, Mabel Madea Simmons, played by Perry himself. Madea has a habit of speaking her mind and doing what she wants, but in the latest film, her mischievous behavior earns her some jail time.
“It was an incredible experience to work with Mr. Perry and other celebrities,” Hurst said. “I had the opportunity to meet Oprah, Stevie Wonder, Usher and many hard-working entertainers while traveling with the play. Perry is very focused when it comes to his work but always provides comic relief … which made the atmosphere fun. I am glad to have participated in such an amazing event.”
In addition to the movie release of “Madea Goes to Jail,” DVDs of the stage performance are also available. Video of Hurst’s performance can also be seen on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook.
Hurst lives in Bangor with his wife and three children. He is developing the Destiny Worship Center, a multicultural, nondenominational church set to open on March 1.
Marlon Weaver is a student in Anne Gabbianelli O’Reilly’s journalism class at the New England School of Communications. For more information about Brian Hurst, visit www.myspace.com/httpwwwmyspacecombrianhurst.