Fences: A Protection or A Divide

The Ensemble Theatre is preparing to kick off 2016 with August Wilson’s Fences, and we wanted to pause to think about metaphorical fences in our lives. In the play, the main character Troy is building a fence. It appears the fence is taking a long time to complete and the condition of the fence is somehow tied to the changing circumstances in his life.

Think of the intent in each of the following phrases:

Jesus be a fence (protection)
Wrong side of the fence (separation)
Straddle the fence (indecision or dilemma)
Falling off the fence (failure)
Don’t fence me in (barrier or boarder)

The fences in our lives are always there, and the purpose for them changes with the conditions that affect our perception:

That emotional fence you put up as a stronghold of protection against perceived harm or threat; the territorial ego hoarding a space or task from others; the separation and longing for someone or something you miss; that barrier or hurdle limiting your ability to advance; the idea that something you want or feel you deserve is off limits or inappropriate; or the feeling of constraint by boarders, boundaries, or rules.

Whether your fence is to hold something in or to block something out, it’s there. How did it get there? When did you begin working on your fence? Is it warm and inviting like a picket fence or cold as a chain link?
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“Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking” Brings Two Houston Veteran Actors Together

Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking

“Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking” makes its regional premiere at The Ensemble Theatre.

Two Old BlackGuys Just Sitting Around Talking brings together two of Houston’s veteran actors, Wayne DeHart and Alex Morris, who take us into a sometimes raw, sometimes gritty, yet always funny conversation between two aging friends; their brotherly relationship complicated by their age-old rivalry for the love of the same woman.

If you’ve ever eavesdropped on your elders’ conversations you know some of them can be pretty candid and laced with a few embellishments, yet chalked full of wisdom.

Both Wayne DeHart and Alex Morris, a former Alley Theatre company member, have a career spanning more than 30 years in stage, television, and film. Both men also began performing during the early years of The Ensemble Theatre and during the life of its late founder George W. Hawkins.

Wayne DeHart

Actor Wayne DeHart

The career paths of Morris and DeHart have many similarities and even intersect at several points, leaving one to conclude that each will bring a great deal of authenticity to the characters they play.

Alex Morris

Actor Alex Morris

“What I Learned in Paris” Brings A Lesson in Love, Life, and Liberation!

What I Learned in Paris

A Houston powerhouse of talent brings Pearl Cleage’s “What I Learned In Paris” to life at The Ensemble Theatre.

Have you ever been to Paris? Can you tell us what epiphanic lessons you learned there?

What I Learned In Paris finds a group of adults enthralled in what some would consider quite inappropriate and trivial behavior since their on the ebb of one of the major historically significant political achievements of the 1970’s. C’est la vie mon chéri. No matter what gravely important changes or monumental successes hang in our backdrop, it doesn’t stop life’s little nuances from occurring. “The heart wants what the heart wants.”What I Learned in Paris

The story takes some far out psychedelic twists when a divorcee, back in the ATL fresh from her trip to Paris and full of new age wisdom, has a few liberating lessons for the love torn bunch. Director Eileen J. Morris has put together a powerhouse of talent to bring every dimension of Pearl Cleage’s romantic comedy to life.

Featured cast members include: Yunina Barbour-Payne, making her debut on The Ensemble Theatre stage; Kendrick “KayB” Bown, just seen in Fly; Cynthia Brown Garcia, who was in The Ensemble’s premiere of the Thomas Meloncon play Christmas with Great Aunt; Detria Ward, who won the 2013 Houston Press Best Actress for her performance in The Ensemble’s production of Pearl Cleage’s The Nacirema Society; and Mirron Willis, who most recently performed as Malcolm X in The Meeting.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 750 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Could you Imagine Celebrating Without Music?

Stepp Stewart's A Soulful Christmas at The Ensemble Theatre Nov. 8 - Dec. 21, 2014.

Stepp Stewart’s A Soulful Christmas at The Ensemble Theatre Nov. 8 – Dec. 21, 2014.

Could you imagine the holidays or any festive celebration without music? No matter your cultural influences or preferred genre, music plays an integral part in our lives in some way. Music helps us tell stories, share experiences, and mark significant occasions. Years later, a faint melodic tune can bring back vivid memories of emotions,  places or times, and people we’ve shared moments with.

In The Ensemble Theatre’s upcoming production of Stepp Stewart’s A Soulful Christmas, two children are taken on a musical journey to discover the rich history within the music, dance, and culture of their family’s holiday celebrations. Audiences are in for a musical treat as the cast performs familiar songs by Michael Jackson, Donny Hathaway, The Temptations, and more!
November 8 – December 21, 2014
Tickets are on sale now: http://www.ensemblehouston.com/season/seasonlineup.html

More Than Meets the Eye in “Women in the Pit”

Wayn DeHart, Byron Jacquet, Jason Carmichael, James West

by Robert Ross

The Ensemble Theatre 2014-2015 season opener, Women in the Pit, has been met with the assumption that “Pit” is referring to Women in the Pulpit. Playwright Joyce Sylvester made it clear this show offers more than what appears obvious.

“Pit” references to the divide women face in the workforce, in their families, andLisa Thomas-Morrison and Rachel Hemphill Dicksoninternally as they strive to find balance in situations less than ideal for anyone to find equal footing. While Women in the Pit neither takes a stance for nor against female leadership in the church, it uses church politics as a platform to pose the question for the audience to decide. Audiences will see there is more than a divide in the church; there’s a divide between a woman and her faith, a divide between a woman and her family, a divide between a woman and her past, and a divide over how to conquer the divide.

James West, Jo Anne Davis-Jones, Jason CarmichaelInspiration in this play ultimately comes in the form of truths being revealed and courageously faced with conviction.

 

For Tickets and Information: www.EnsembleHouston.com

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Modern Day Ministers Tackle an Age-Old Question

By Cierra Duncan

 

Women in the PitThere is perhaps no issue more hotly debated in the history of the church than that of women serving as leaders and pastors.
The Ensemble Theatre tackles the debate in its 2014-2015 season opener, Women in the Pit,  by Joyce Sylvester and Directed by Eileen J. Morris. At Mount Zion Baptist Church two deacons and two elders are told to find a new pastor and quickly become at odds with one another when it’s clear the most qualified candidate is a woman.

Many opponents of female clergy and as church leaders cite I Timothy 2:12 as their biblical reference. The scripture says “and I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. (NKJV)”
Ministers have long taught that scriptures should be studied in context with the time period they were written. Societal norms at the time, such as women not receiving the same education as men, being silent in church and covering their heads, should be taken into consideration.
“I think all of those things have merit and that all things in the scripture are for our benefit,” said Rev. Jan Courtney Stephens, associate pastor of Christian Education at New Faith Church.
“However, I think we need to understand that some things should be assessed in context and ask ‘what was God saying at that time.”

the New York Cast (L-R): Kim Sullivan, Tim Simonson, Jerome Preston Bates, Wendi Joy Franklin, and Donnie Hinosn. Photo by Phillip Howell

the New York Cast (L-R): Kim Sullivan, Tim Simonson, Jerome Preston Bates, Wendi Joy Franklin, and Donnie Hinosn. Photo by Phillip Howell

Stephens theorizes that when the Apostle Paul wrote I Timothy, a letter to the pastor at the church in Ephesus, he may have noticed the Greek women were being loud, interruptive and even ostentatious while in worship services.
“I think much of that is just being taken literally opposed to in the context of what was happening in the culture,” she said. “Women really could be stoned for not obeying their husbands.”
“A person’s cultural experience informs them tremendously,” said Rev. Lekesha Barnett, minister of young adults and singles at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. “My interpretation, based on what I believe to be true to the context and the cultural experience, is that women did not have the same benefit of education as men so they were less equipped to be teachers. You would not want someone who is not informed to teach.”
Barnett also noted I Corinthians where the Apostle Paul writes “let your women keep silent” but in the same letter he also writes “if she prophecies let her prophecy with her head covered.”
“When we get through all the layers of how one can understand those texts it’s still going to come down to the fact that there are still people who are going to believe what they are going to believe and stand where they stand because of their own biases, faith perspectives, traditions and comfort,” she continued.
Church leadership titles are not gender specific, according to Barnett and Stephens. Therefore, they cannot be solely designated to men.
“The word ‘pastor’ means to shepherd, to guide, to nurture,” Barnett said. “To pastor means you’re feeding, teaching, leading and guiding people. All of those things are something a woman can do.”

“Bishop means to oversee, as one who takes charge,” Stephens said. “If I am able to take that just by itself and go back to the way God used Deborah (a prophetess and judge) and Huldah (a temple prophet), I say it can be very possible.”
When reading the Bible in totality, it is evident that God has used some out of the ordinary people and those deemed of lesser significance to accomplish His will. And although there are those who do not agree with women in church leadership, it should be evident to every Bible believer that women have played an active role in doing God’s work.
“When you bring all scripture together it is clear that God will use whom he chooses and there is evidence of that in the Old Testament and the New Testament,” Stephens said. “It is evident that God has used women, not only to teach women but to judge and administrate even in the affairs of men.”
Barnett echoed Stephen’s sentiments.
“Where God calls and equips, He will sustain and provide the space and the opportunity for that which He has placed in a person to do and to benefit the Body of Christ,” she said.

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