updated 5/16/2011 1:17:25 PM ET 2011-05-16T17:17:25

HOUSTON, May 16, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Ensemble Theatre Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris announces the theatre's 35th anniversary season lineup, a variety of comedies, dramas, classic, and musical productions.

"I'm excited to be approaching yet another milestone with The Ensemble Theatre," says Morris. "Our 35th Anniversary Season is filled with the power of art and the revelation of its unending manifestation in our daily lives."

Cliff Roquemore's Lotto, will kick off the season with laughter when a man wins the lottery and it brings out the eccentricity of all his family and friends. The African American Shakespeare Festival's Cinderella is back by popular demand for the holidays. Cuttin' Up, by Charles Randolph Wright gives insight to barbershops as one of America's great community institutions filled with humorous anecdotes and life lessons. This season in collaboration with the Houston Museum of African America Culture, The Ensemble Theatre will present The Ballad of Emmett Till, a jazz infused contemporary work by playwright Ifa Bayeza. The theatre will complete the August Wilson 10-play cycle with its production of King Hedley II. Season finale, Sanctified, by Javon Johnson, tells the story of a church on its last legs planning a revival as a last ditch effort to keep its doors open; plans to call upon Houston's local talent as cameo vocalists will kick off with audition clips being solicited via social networking media.

Several projects are underway in preparation for the theatre's year-long celebration beginning with the Annual Black Tie Gala, August 20, 2011. Currently plans are being made for facility upgrades that include new seats for the George Hawkins mainstage. Act One, the theatre's new young professionals group is working on a calendar of events that will include pre-show mixers, a wine tasting, and poetry slam. Productions from the theatre's touring education program will be expanded into a mini season of children's theatre available to families and schools.

The Ensemble Theatre's 2011-2012 Season Includes:

Lotto

By Cliff Roquemore
Adapted by Bryan Roquemore
Directed by Eileen J. Morris
PG / Comedy
George Hawkins Mainstage

September 24 – October 23, 2011
Opening Night Media Reception September 29, 2011

A middle-aged water department worker in Los Angeles wins $10 million in the lottery with numbers that came to his sister in a dream. Craziness ensues as he discovers just how quickly his new found wealth not only changes him, but his family and friends, too. Luckily, his wife remains level headed and ultimately saves them from their own follies.

Cinderella

Adapted by the African American Shakespeare Company
Music, Lyrics, and Musical Direction by Carlton Leake
Directed and Choreographed by Patdro Harris
General Audiences
George Hawkins Mainstage

November 12 – December 30, 2011
Opening Night and Media Reception November 17, 2011

Back by popular demand! The classical tale of Cinderella comes alive in this fresh interpretation filled with memorable music. This whimsical story mixes beauty and elegance with the hilarity of evil Stepsisters and, of course, a hip Fairy Godmother with a little 'diva-tude' who makes the magic happen at the Christmas Ball. An imaginary and dazzling winter tale that can be enjoyed by the entire family!

The Ballad of Emmett Till

By Ifa Bayeza
Directed by TBA
In collaboration with the Houston Museum of African American Culture
PG/ Drama
George Hawkins Mainstage

January 28 – February 26, 2012
Opening Night and Media Reception February 2, 2012

Winner of the 2009 Edgar Award, presented by Mystery Writers of America, The Ballad of Emmett Till is told through contemporary prose with the infusion of jazz. A month after his fourteenth birthday, this confident youth from Chicago, a boy on the threshold of manhood, embarks on a summer trip to Mississippi. His pursuit of happiness and liberty are pierced with the poignancy of life. The 1955 lynching of Emmett Till fell on the cusp of a saga that changed the course of the nation.

Cuttin' Up

By Charles Randolph Wright
Directed by Eileen J. Morris
PG/ Comedy
George Hawkins Mainstage

March 17 – April 15, 2012
Opening Night and Media Reception March 22, 2012

Cuttin' Up is an exploration of the African American barbershop trimmed with a series of thought-provoking and funny anecdotes, memories and music into a living oral history covering 60 years. Andre, a second generation barber, decides he's had enough of the "one horse town" he grew up in and hits the road for greener pastures. He soon learns the only thing green is him. His journey ends in Cleveland, Ohio. Here he begins work for Howard, a long-time barber and shop owner who sees the shop as a communal ground where men, and the occasional woman and child, come to socialize, talk about the issues of the day, and learn about their collective history.

King Hedley II

By August Wilson
Directed by Eileen J. Morris
R/ Drama/ Adult Language
George Hawkins Mainstage

May 5 – June 3, 2012
Opening Night and Media Reception May 10, 2012

Set in 1985, King Hedley II follows the characters created by August Wilson in Seven Guitars. A woman is tormented by a secret she has kept for 36 years, while her only son tries to rebuild his life; a life that always seems just out of reach. An epic tragedy of the common man who bears both physical and emotional scars, yet he still dreams.

Sanctified

By Javon Johnson
Directed and Choreographed by Patdro Harris
Musical Direction by Carlton Leake

June 23 – July 29, 2012
Opening Night and Media Reception June 28, 2012

This hilarious gospel comedy opens a window to the African American church, gospel music, and the congregations that sustain it. East Piney Grove Church (standing on its traditions …and its last legs) is faced with the challenge of working together in their last-ditch effort for a successful revival. Their newly appointed Pastor, in desperation, enlists the help of his cousin and self-proclaimed gospel D-I-V-A, but the church elders won't stand for it. A battle of tradition verses vision rocks the pulpit, pews, and the whole congregation!

For information regarding subscriptions, tickets and group sales call The Ensemble Theatre Box Office:

713-520-0055 or visit www.ensemblehouston.com

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.

The Ensemble Theatre produces a main stage season of contemporary and classic works devoted to the portrayal of the African American experience by local and national playwrights and artists. The theatre's Performing Arts Education program provides educational workshops, Artist-in-Residence experiences and live performances for students both off-site and at the theatre. Through its varied programs, The Ensemble Theatre benefits an audience and artistic constituency of approximately 65,000 people annually.

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

© Copyright 2012, GlobeNewswire, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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