Applause was the appropriate reaction in Houston’s Ensemble Theater as it held the Dawn of The Decade 40-year anniversary press conference for the lineup of this year’s performances.
Within the city lies an instrumental one-story building which holds a mission: to preserve African American artistic expression; to enlighten, entertain and enrich a diverse community. Eileen J. Morris, who is the theater’s artistic director, stands by that mission.
“Every time we do art, we are speaking to the community,” Morris said.
“I think that the art that we do and the fact that we are connected so much with our community is what is impactful. That’s one of the traits of the Ensemble Theater, so to speak.”
So much has changed since the theater was founded in 1976 by the late George Hawkins, who was influenced by the African American Theatre Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Such a movement prompted Hawkins to make a company into what is now known as one of Houston’s go-to places for performing arts. Development Director Kathy L. Kelley, a longtime Houston resident, thinks the theater does make an impact in the Houston community and vice versa.
“The community comes here and they’re embracing and appreciative of what we do and understand what we’re doing and they really support what we do,” Kelley said.
Other than the theatrical arts, the theater will also hold major events such as a gala and a golf tournament to continue spreading the foundation the theater has done. Also discussed by this is Janette L. Cosley, the theater’s executive director.
“And the children who come here for those field trips? I cannot tell you how diverse those audiences are because majority of them come from the Houston Independent school District,” Cosley said.
“They know about African Americans who play sports, they know about African Americans who make music, but they don’t necessarily get to know the actors.”
Public Relations Manager Robert Ross keeps that in mind throughout the conference.
“The community gives us feedback and, as any responsible institution or business, for that matter, you really have to listen to your patron base in order to meet their needs and what their interests are,” Ross said.
Plenty of Time, one of the many plays lined up for the year, will portray the basis of what the Ensemble Theater stands for. Perhaps an appearance by the conference’s guest performer Regina Hearne may be seen at one of the plays. Their season lineup and special events can be found at their website: www.EnsembleHouston.com.
Previews of the show run for two days, and the main show runs from May 12 through June 5. May 12 at 7:30 pm is the start of Plenty of Time.