updated 3/23/2011 12:17:01 PM ET 2011-03-23T16:17:01

HOUSTON, March 23, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Ensemble Theatre welcomes Tony Award nominee Anthony Chisholm and Houston jitney entrepreneur Lauren Barrash to kick off the theatre's Opening Night and media reception, for 'Jitney,' Thursday, March 31, 2011, 6:30pm.

Lauren Barrash and Anthony Chisholm have never met and they share two relevant yet totally different connections to 'Jitney.' Chisholm is an actor who has performed in several August Wilson productions, including a tour of 'Jitney,' and Barrash owns and operates The Houston Wave, the only permitted jitney service in Houston within the last 15 years.

"I invited Anthony to participate in our opening night festivities because he has such a commitment to 'Jitney,' and he was one of the original cast members," says Eileen J. Morris, The Ensemble Theatre Artistic Director. "He has performed in several August Wilson productions and remains dedicated to preserving Wilson's work."

Barrash and her staff will be seeing the production of 'Jitney' for the first time. They plan to take one of their jitney buses to the theatre. She recently took the entire Ensemble cast of 'Jitney,' on a tour ride and shared the story of how her business was started and some of the history behind jitneys.

"We are still educating people about what jitney means," says Barrash. "When I first began operating I'd notice the strange looks from people when we'd drive by or ask if they needed a ride, but now everyone from Mayor Parker to some of our local professional athletes have caught a ride on The Houston Wave."

Anthony Chisholm is an award winning American actor who has performed in several August Wilson productions. He is a Tony Award Nominee (Best Supporting Actor in a play, in the role of Elder Joseph Barlow in August Wilson's 'Radio Golf'). He also performed on Broadway in August Wilson's 'Gem of the Ocean' in the role of Solly Two King, and 'Two Trains Running' in the role of Wolf. He is a winner of both the Drama Desk Award and the Obie Award for August Wilson's 'Jitney,' which enjoyed a ten month run in New York City. He also performed 'Jitney' at London's Prestigious National Theatre on the South Bank winning the Olivier Award for Best New Play.

Lauren Barrash is owner of The Houston Wave, one of the first permitted jitney services in 15 years. Her route started on Washington Avenue, and has since grown to several routes in and around the 610 loop including: Upper Kirby/ Sheppard, Rice Village, Montrose, Galleria/ Uptown Park, the eights, Downtown, and Midtown. The Wave now operates a fleet of jitney buses with plans to add more. The City of Houston has installed 25 jitney stops, but if anyone sees her orange jitney buses in route they can wave one down for a ride.

Set in 1977, Jitney tells the story of a group of men in Pittsburgh's Hill District who drive unlicensed "gypsy" cabs that for years have served as a vital means of transportation for the working class in Pittsburgh and other urban centers. The men must ban together in their struggle to earn a living (and respect) as urban redevelopment threatens their livelihood with demolition. They struggle to overcome their personal conflicts in order to foster a sense of solidarity against a backdrop of diminishing opportunities.

Previews: March 26, 27, and 30      Show Run: March 31-April 24, 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.

Featured cast members include:  Wayne DeHart, Timothy Eric, Henry Edwards, Troy Hogan, Byron Jacquet, Broderick Jones, Jordyn Lorenz, Joseph Palmore, and Lee Stansberry.

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

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 Chevron.

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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