The Ensemble Theatre Joins National Theatre Movement

The Ensemble Theatre Joins Project1Voice in the National Stage Reading of "For Colored Girls" by Ntozake Shange

The Ensemble Theatre Joins Project1Voice in the National Stage Reading of “For Colored Girls” by Ntozake Shange

The Ensemble Theatre joins Project1Voice and a nation-wide collaborative in the stage reading of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange, Monday, June 16, 2014, 6:00PM, 3535 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002.

Directed by Wayne DeHart, and featuring actresses:  Cynthia Brown, Rachel Dickson, Kimberly Hicks, Rita Hughes, Miss Pinky, Constance Washington, Samantha West

Over 30 African American theatre companies and diverse institutions will take part in this international experience featuring prominent and local actors. This year, marks the 40th anniversary of the stage debut of For Colored Girls…This seminal work of American literature uniquely combines poetry, dance and music—placing the African American female’s experience in America unapologetically center stage.

This year’s reading of For Colored Girls… is being used by several participating theatres as a platform to promote wellness for women and girls in the African American community and to expand the conversation about the well-being of women and girls by promoting literacy; providing access to health information and services; raising political awareness; and engaging in the arts. They are showing that theatre is more than entertainment; it can be a useful tool in educating, raising awareness, and bringing about a call to action.

The Ensemble Theatre has partnered with local organizations and professionals to provide testing and informational resources:
AIDS Foundation Houston will provide testing before and after the reading.
Houston Area Urban League will distribute information about affordable care enrollment.
Dr. Marketa Wills and Psychotherapist Josephine Tervalon will provide information on mental health and emotional trauma.

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Heart of The Ensemble Theatre Beating Strong

Heart of the Theatre Corporate Luncheon: Ensemble Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris, Board Member Muriel Funches, and Executive Director Janette Cosley

Heart of the Theatre Corporate Luncheon: Ensemble Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris, Board Member Muriel Funches, and Executive Director Janette Cosley

The Ensemble Theatre celebrated its 2013-2014 Annual Heart of the Theatre appreciation event, Monday, March 3, 2014. The day kicked off with a corporate luncheon were Ensemble Board President Micheal Helm gave a report on the impact corporate and individual donor support has had in the growth of the theatre as a stable business and major influence in the Midtown community. Interim Executive Director Jill Jewitt of MATCH (Midtown Arts & Theatre Center Houston), spoke about the forthcoming arts space soon to break ground near the theatre. Janette Cosley, Ensemble Executive Director serves on the executive director selection committee for MATCH; and Eileen J. Morris, Ensemble Artistic Director serves as chair of the Midtown Management District’s Cultural Arts Committee.

The day culminated in a performance by Kim Coles, The Ensemble Theatre’s 2013 Actress of the Year honoree, returning to Houston with her one-woman show entitled: Oh But Wait…There’s More! Over 300 subscribers and donors were in attendance for this special event hosted by The Ensemble’s board, staff, and artists as an extension of gratitude for their support of the theatre’s programs year round.

Heart of the Theatre Performance by Actress Kim Coles in her one-woman show "Oh but Wait...There's More!"

Heart of the Theatre Performance by Actress Kim Coles in her one-woman show “Oh but Wait…There’s More!”

The Ensemble Theatre is preparing for its August 16, 2014 Annual Black Tie Gala and Fundraiser where celebrities, corporations, and local community members will be recognized for their contributions to the arts and support of The Ensemble Theatre in becoming one of Houston’s premiere historical cultural institutions.

The Ensemble Theatre's August 16, 2014 Annual Black Tie Gala. Honorary Chair: The Honorable Sylvester Turner; and Co-Chairs: Laurie Vignaud and Devra Daughtry

The Ensemble Theatre’s August 16, 2014 Annual Black Tie Gala. Honorary Chair: The Honorable Sylvester Turner; and Co-Chairs: Laurie Vignaud and Devra Daughtry

Shell Black Networking Group Invites Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker to The Ensemble Theatre

Mayor Cory Booker (center) with (L-R)Ensemble Board President Jackie Phillips, Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris, Executive Director Janette Cosley, and Board Member Vernon Landers

Mayor Cory Booker (center) with (L-R)Ensemble Board President Jackie Phillips, Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris, Executive Director Janette Cosley, and Board Member Vernon Landers

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Corey Booker visited The Ensemble Theatre, Saturday, February 23, 2013. He was invited by Ensemble Theatre Board Member and Shell Employee Simone Haygood and the Shell Black Networking Group (SBNG), one of Shell Oil’s several affinity groups designed to support diversity within the company. Members of the SBNG attended The Ensemble Theatre’s Black History Month drama, Knock Me A Kiss by Charles Smith. Following the play, Mayor Booker gave a presentation on leadership. He shared funny, endearing, and insightful stories about his family and other early experiences that helped shape his leadership style.  He elaborated on vision, attention to detail, and collaboration, a few components of his style.  Mayor Booker graciously mingled with guests including Houston Mayor Annise Parker, Shell Employees, and Ensemble Theatre Board Members and staff.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker (Center) with Ensemble Theatre Executive Director Janette Cosley and Board President Jackie Phillips

Houston Mayor Annise Parker (Center) with Ensemble Theatre Executive Director Janette Cosley and Board President Jackie Phillips

Just to Say Thank You – The Ensemble Theatre’s 2012-2013 Heart of the Theatre Subscriber Appreciation Event

hott2013smThe Ensemble Theatre Board of Directors, Staff, and Artists hosted their annual appreciation event for their corporate sponsor and subscribers, Monday, March 4, 2013. The celebration began with a corporate luncheon where representatives from several of the theatre’s corporate sponsors were greeted by Ensemble Executive and Artistic Directors Janette Cosley and Eileen J. Morris. Board President Jackie Phillips gave a presentation on the state of the theatre with updates highlighting several of the theatre’s milestone achievements over the past several years including its over 30% increased attendance to performances, a 300% increased subscribers, facility upgrades, and most recently exceeding its goal of raising $250K during the theatre’s Founder’s Circle fundraising campaign which also resulted in a $75K matching gift to enhance the theatre’s endowment fund. Performances were given by veteran Ensemble Theatre performer Werner Richmond and Young Performer’s Program student Taylor Nelson. The luncheon was followed by tours of the building to show attendees the theatre’s facility improvements.HOTT - corplunch

That evening a Jazz and Poetry event was well attended by the theatre’s subscribers, and corporate sponsors. Guests were treated to light hor d’oeuvres prepared by Chef Tarsha while listening to musical performances by Werner Richmond and the Richmond Covington Band, also featuring songs performed by actress/ vocalist Teacake. A scene for the theatre’s upcoming production of Broke-ology was performed by actor Broderick “Brod J” Jones and actress Autumn Knight. Actor/ Poet Joe P entertained the audience with the artistry spoken word. The celebration concluded with the Richmond Covington Band and Teacake getting attendees out on the dance floor for one last round of excitement and fun. Ensemble Executive and Artistic Directors Janette Cosley and Eileen J. Morris thanked subscribers for continuing their support.
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Mirron Willis: Con-tExt-ual Acting

On February 20, 2013, Mirron Willis conducted an acting workshop with an added text twist.  Instead of running through monotonous scene set or otherwise relatively unknown pieces of masterpiece theatre script, Mirron decided to incorporate the current box office sell out – Knock Me A Kiss; by having his class orate piece’s of poetry from an actual original 1925 copy of Color, written by the Harlem Renaissance poet himself, Countee Cullen.

Mirron Willis
Mirron began his workshop with what some might call ‘unconventional’ warm-up exercises.   After gathering everyone in a circle, Mirron demonstrates sounds, waist bends, and upper-body shakes that might normally be misunderstood for someone having a fit, or in viewing multiple people doing the exercises at the same time – some kind of cult activity; which is quite bizarre looking to an outsider who does not know what’s going on.  But Mirron’s intent is to open the actor up; or for all intents and purposes, ‘wake up the drama bone’.  Mirron explains that looseness is an absolute must, but at no point is one to overexert themselves.

Approximately 25 minutes into the workshop, the class headed to the stage with their poetry in hand to sit around Mirron Willis as he began to talk about Countee Cullen, who he was as a person and a poet.  He allowed the class to pass around – with emphasis on ‘carefully’ – an original 1925 copy of Color, a collection of poems put together after Countee Cullens’ controversial divorce from W.E.B. Dubois’ daughter Yolande Debois.  Mirron decided to change it up a bit and have the class dramatically orate selections from the book.  He was very in tune and had a profound method of helping the actor tap into the mind of the author as he/she read aloud the poetry selections.

At first read, the poems were cryptic and hard to understand, but after following Mirron’s instructions in using context clues and deconstructing the symbolism, the actors were able to orate each poem with clarity and conviction.

Mirron Willis proved himself the professional that he is in having worked in the industry for over 25 years.  He’s acted with some of the most known names in Hollywood – Forest Whitaker, Will Smith,  and Queen Latifa – just to name a few. Mirron came to Houston by way of a tornado.  Mr. Willis says, “My family has a farm in Crockett Texas.  It was a tornado that hit my family’s farm and in coming back here I figured it was a good time to settle here in Texas to be with my family for a while.”  In conducting this workshop, beyond the contract obligations to The Ensemble Theatre, Mirron Willis wanted to make his mark.  He stated, “I wanted to do a workshop on text as opposed to just acting.  I thought it was important for us to deconstruct the poetry.  I wanted to focus on text and the voice so that my participants can walk away with their own tools to use at home.”

The Ensemble Theatre applauds Mirron Willis for his contribution to the theatre and to the community.

-RTW

We’re Moving Forward!

Well, it’s official everyone! The Ensemble Theatre now has a blog. Stay tuned for all sorts of interesting updates and comments.

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