updated 1/11/2011 10:16:54 AM ET 2011-01-11T15:16:54

HOUSTON, Jan. 11, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Ensemble Theatre celebrates Black History Month with its production of 'Gee's Bend' by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder. Opening night and media reception held, Thursday, February 3, 2011, 6:30 p.m.

"I spent a year researching the women of Gee's Bend and their fascinating quilt work," says Wilder. "My entire being was deeply moved by the thought of how such beautiful art has been preserved for generations through all this tiny isolated town had experienced."

'Gee's Bend' is based on the lives of the Pettaway women, descendents of former slaves owned by Joseph Gee and Mark Pettaway. The play follows Alice, her daughters Sadie and Nella, and Sadie's husband, Macon, through the old south Jim Crow laws of segregation, family strife and the Civil Rights movement. These women found a sense of reprieve through quilting and the expression of their spirituality through the organic rhythms of harmonized gospel.

Director Elizabeth Van Dyke is making her return to The Ensemble Theatre where the last two productions she directed were 'Waiting to be Invited' and 'A Raisin in the Sun.'

"History weaves unique experiences in and out of our lives that give birth to rich and inspiring stories," says Van Dyke. "Gee's Bend patches together experiences of love, toil, and perseverance, then beautifully stitches them together with the comfort of soothing gospel hymns."

Previews: January 29, 30, and February 2, 2011  Show Run: February 3 – February 27, 2011.

Performances: Thursdays: 7:30 p.m.; Fridays: 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays: 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sundays: 3:00 p.m.

For tickets and seating availability call: 713-520-0055 or visit: www.ensemblehouston.com

'Gee's Bend' was first presented through a reading at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in 2006. Later that year it was commissioned by the Denver Center Theatre Company where the completed production was developed. Wilder has won the 2008 M. Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright for 'Gee's Bend.'

Featured actors include: Kendrick Brown, Teacake Ferguson, Michelle Harper, and Detria Ward.

The Ensemble Theatre's 2010-2011 Season is sponsored in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance and Texas Commission on the Arts. Continental Airlines is the exclusive airline sponsor for The Ensemble Theatre. This production is generously underwritten by Spectra Energy.

The Ensemble Theatre was founded in 1976 by the late George Hawkins to preserve African American artistic expression and to enlighten, entertain, and enrich a diverse community. The theatre is known as the only professional theatre in its region dedicated to the production of works portraying the African American experience. In addition to being the oldest and largest professional African American theatre in the Southwest, it also holds the distinction of being one of the nation's largest African American theatres that owns and operates its facility with an in-house production team. Board President Emeritus Audrey Lawson led the capital campaign for The Ensemble's $4.5 million building renovations that concluded in 1997.

CONTACT: Robert Ross
         (713) 807-4306
         rross@ensemblehouston.com

© Copyright 2012, GlobeNewswire, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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