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

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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

A NEw BEginning for BEginning Actors – Intro to Acting

Brod J and Beginning Actor

Brod J and Beginning Actor

The beginner’s acting class began January 28th, 2013 and will run until March 11th, 2013.  Taking place inside the The Ensemble auditorium, it has been jam-packed with a wealth of basic knowledge about the theatre.  Broderick Jones, aka “Brod J”, delivers a premium package of academics as he teaches about the great Thespis, the first known actor according to Greek antiquity; and limelight, the main ingredient inside candles when candles were used to illuminate the stage and actors. Hence the phrase, “step into the limelight”.  He includes theatre dynamics, teaching about the three types of stages – presidium, where the stage faces the audience; a thrust, a catwalk stage; and an arena, where the audience surrounds the entire stage. Brod J runs through a grocery list of general theatre vocabulary, which will be up to the student to master; before he transitions the class into acting scenarios.  This is where the fun begins.

His class is given a reading to orate once.  After that, Brod J throws a twist to draw out feelings and characteristics from inside the student, the likes of which has probably never been experienced by the beginning actor. If the student is reserved and timid, Brod J will say, “Ok, now give me ghetto attitudinal, and I need to hear you at the back of the theatre.”  His teaching method proves effective as he gives the right mixture of pressure and flexibility to get his class to project.  Brod J instructs the student to run in place while reciting the ABC’s.  By the time the actor is finished jogging, her breath is so heavy, that all she can do is project while she reads her lines.

It’s amazing to watch Brod J is his natural element.  He is a true actor and a profound acting coach.  No experience is necessary to join his class.  Keep The Ensemble Theatre’s Beginning Actors class on your radar for upcoming classes http://www.ensemblehouston.com/programs/workshops

-RTW

Act One Young ProfEssionals – Black History MixEr

Thursday evening February 7, 2013,  The Ensemble Theatre’s Act One Young Professionals held their 3rd Annual Black History Month Mixer. Hosts for the evening were the Act One Steering committee Chair Pamela Ulmer, Co-Chair Henry Mosley, and other committee members present including Andrea Browne and Robert Ross.  Other Act One Steering committee members include Terrence Blackshire and Carl McGowan.
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“Act One was organized as an exciting way to cultivate The Ensemble Theatre’s next generation of supporters,” said Robert Ross, Ensemble Theatre Public Relations Manager and Act One steering Committee member.  “All of the Act One steering committee members have done a great job combining their experience in working with and/or leading other young professionals organizations.”

Act One: A Unique, Contemporary Theatre Experience did not disappoint as its name implies; from the mixed drinks to DJ Cruize Control’s Urban Jazz mix, the Black History Mixer was definitely a contemporary  mixture of industries, age, and gender – albeit with a common love of the Arts.  This year’s Act turned out to be a success with promises made, promises kept. Refreshments were sponsored by the Act One Steering Committee, Natachee’s, Mo Mo’s Chicken & Waffles, and Pepsico.2aobh13

Act One 2013 Black History Month Mixer

Act One 2013 Black History Month Mixer

Act One Young Professionals set a goal to begin the year with great momentum; casting their net wide to catch the interest of professionals from a diverse stream of  industries and small businesses who happen to be Art lovers within the community.  And boy did they catch some big fish.  Gene Padgett represented a business that understudies the Arts.  “It’s so important to love the theatre,” said Padgett. A sentiment obviously shared by everyone in attendance.  But owning a business relative to the Arts is not a prerequisite to become a member of Act One.  Many other business owners, corporate representatives, and other professional organization members found themselves engaged in an exchange of information that could only improve their status quo within their businesses or personal knowledge of the Arts.  Charles Carter, VP of Administration of A-Rocket Moving and Storage said that he was a loyal supporter of The Ensemble Theatre and made it his priority to set aside time and resources to represent his company on TET’s platform.
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Some of the other companies and organizations represented at the mixer included: Shell Oil; Spectra Energy;  CenterPoint Energy;  Chevron;  National Black MBA Association – Houston Chapter; National Association of Black Accountants; National Society of Black Engineers; Houston; Area Urban League Young Professionals; National Black MBA Association Houston Chapter; Houston Association of Black Journalists; NAACP Houston Branch – Young Adults Committee; Houston Lawyers Association; National Association of African American HR Professionals; National Sales Network; Mary Susan Moore Medical Society; and National Association of Healthcare Services Executives.

The lovely and vivacious Alicia Tate a graduate student at University of Texas candidly stated, “As a young single woman, I wanted to find a place where I can connect with other young men and women who share my interests.”

The Act One Young Professionals Steering Committee said they are happy to have helped develop this platform where new age executives, artists, and lovers of the arts can connect.  Check out the season line-up and join today!

http://www.ensemblehouston.com/ActOne/index.html

-RTW

Knock ME a Kiss

Actresses Michelle Harper and Detria Ward sharing a mother daughter scene in "Knock Me A Kiss."

Actresses Michelle Harper and Detria Ward sharing a mother daughter scene in “Knock Me A Kiss.”

"Knock Me A Kiss" Playwright Charles Smith visits Houston for The Ensemble Theatre's  Opening Night.

“Knock Me A Kiss” Playwright Charles Smith visits Houston for The Ensemble Theatre’s Opening Night.

Approximately 14 years ago, Knock Me a Kiss was just one out of four plays being considered in the season line-up by play write Charles Smith.  Only problem was, there was no script; only the budding spark of a creative genius.  Mr. Smith said, “All I have is a title, Knock Me a Kiss.”  Less than a month later he would script a beautiful tale of woman torn between love and duty, set in the Harlem Renaissance.

But don’t feel as though a story set in the 1920’s couldn’t possibly translate to today’s social and political genres; because it does.  In fact, Charles’s fictional depiction of a real-life true story reflects the social issues of today.  How many of us have sacrificed our authentic selves for the sake of a bigger picture?  Knock Me a Kiss asks the question, “What is the bigger picture?”   Beautifully translated by pivotal character Nina DuBois, actress Detria Ward gives a stellar performance as the proverbial “cra cra”.  She let the audience know, every now and again you might want to listen to what a crazy person has to say, they just might save your life.

Overall, every fiber and texture of this play soothes the soul like a warm blanket.  Bravo to the cast!  Job well done!  Opening night is tonight January 31, 2013, 7:30p.  Knock Me a Kiss runs until February 24, 2013.  Don’t put off buying your ticket.  Hurry and get you ticket before someone gets your seat.  They are filling up fast!

– RTW

PrEparation Is KEy

PrEparation Is KEy

ThE EnsEmblE ThEatrE’s guEst dirEctor for Knock ME a Kiss and thE Chicago Goodman ThEatrE’s rEsidEnt dirEctor Chuck Smith gavE a grEat workshop at ThE EnsEmblE ThEatrE, Saturday, January 12, 2013.
HE spokE with artists about thE dynamics of planning for an audition. ***SidE notE: I walkEd away with a fEw rEfrEshErs on prEparation for any job intErviEw.***
“You havE to do your homEwork and go into an audition with a positivE mindsEt,” says Smith
A fEw studEnts bravEd thE gloomy wEathEr for what turnEd into a light, informativE class. HE also gavE fEEdback on monologuEs and hEadshots.

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