updated 4/20/2011 3:48:05 PM ET 2011-04-20T19:48:05

HOUSTON, April 20, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Ensemble Theatre presents its Black Box series featuring 'Hi-Hat Hattie: The Story of Hattie McDaniel' by Larry Parr and 'No Child' by Nilaja Sun with Opening Night and media reception, Thursday, May 5, 2011, 6:30pm.

"It's been many years since we've used The Ensemble Theatre's Audrey Lawson Arena (Black Box) performance space to host any of our season productions," says Eileen J. Morris, Ensemble Theatre Artistic Director. "We wanted to offer something fresh that reminds patrons of our versatility of space within the theatre."

The Black Box was named in honor of Audrey Lawson, The Ensemble Theatre's president Emeritus for her work in launching the theatre's first capital campaign that led to complete ownership and renovations to its current location at 3535 Main St. Both performances in the space embody the energy she's put forth to help The Ensemble Theatre become one of Houston's top cultural arts institutions and it highlights her exuberance for education.

'Hi-Hat Hattie: The Story of Hattie McDaniel' by Larry Parr

Directed by Bebe Wilson

Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American to win an Academy Award for her portrayal of Mammy in "Gone With The Wind" and has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: one for radio and one for film. She was subsequently attacked by the NAACP and members of her own race for "selling out" and helping to perpetuate stereotypes. In spite of her adversities she carried on as a member of Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and served as Chairman of the Negro Division of the Hollywood Victory Committee that provided entertainment to troops during World War II. It is her life, a musical biography, told from her perspective, and for the first time, we can understand her plight.

Featured actress Shaunyce Omar has been recognized for her performances in The Ensemble Theatre's production of 'The Wiz' and 'Constant Star.' She has also performed in the Alley Theatre's 'I, Barbara Jordan.'

The Ensemble Theatre's growth in supporters and awareness has resulted in Hi-Hat Hattie being added to its list of sold out performances this season. Due to popular demand, three performances were added:

Extended Run: May 8, 10, and 11 at 7:30 P.M.

'No Child' by Nilaja Sun

Directed by Eileen J. Morris

No Child is a hilarious and touching effort to shed light on the New York public school system. It offers an insightful look at the teachers, students, administrators, janitors, and security guards who inhabit our schools and shape the future of America.

Featured actress Alice Gatling is one of The Ensemble Theatre's veteran performers. She was last seen in 'Doubt' and 'To Kill a Mockingbird' at the Alley Theater; 'Caroline, or Change' at Main Street Theatre and the world premiere of 'Black Pearl Sings' at Stages Repertory Theatre.

Show Run: May 15 – May 22, 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

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 Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts.

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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