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The Ensemble Theatre Participates in National Benefit Stage Reading

/ Source: GlobeNewswire

A Celebration of African American Theatre With Reading of Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress

HOUSTON, June 6, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Ensemble Theatre is one of seventeen African American theatres to participate in a national benefit staged play reading of Alice Childress' Trouble in Mind, Monday, June 20, 2011.

"This is a great opportunity to unite a national community of theatres in support of one another," says Eileen J. Morris, Ensemble Theatre Artistic Director. "It reminds us that we are all part of a greater artistic collaborative outside the walls of our individual institutions."

Actor/ Director Wayne DeHart will direct The Ensemble Theatre's presentation of the play. Featured cast members include: Julie Boneau, Cynthia Brown, Kendrick Brown, Paul Drake, Wayne DeHart, Kit Fordyce, Ron Jones, Bob Morgan, and Bebe Wilson.

PROJECT1VOICE, a newly established organization founded by New York-based actor/producer Erich McMillan-McCall (Chicago, The Who's Tommy) to preserve the legacy of African American theatre and playwrights, announced its inaugural event: 1VOICE, 1 PLAY, 1 DAY. African American theatres across the country have been invited to participate in this one day event that serves as both an awareness campaign and fundraising endeavor.

"This national day of celebration not only honors the late Alice Childress' seminal work, but it seeks to highlight the African-American theatre companies who are struggling for their very existence," PROJECT1VOICE Founder Erich McMillan-McCall said. "It is imperative that our community spark renewed interest in the art, the artists and the organizations which nurture them. PROJECT1VOICE is proud to take on the challenge of trumpeting our artistic resources so that they can sustain themselves now and into the future."

For more information about PROJECT1VOICE, and to see interviews with theater luminaries such as prolific producer Woodie King, Jr., Tony-Award winner Adriane Lenox, and Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage, visit:

About Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress

Trouble in Mind is a powerfully incendiary and satiric drama based on the conflict of not compromising one's artistic integrity. This play within a play follows the journey of a mixed-raced cast in 1957 as they embark upon rehearsals for a racially-charged play. Childress shows the actors' complaints, directors' frustration and the well-meaning efforts of theater professionals to overcome their racial feelings. As the play unfolds each character is revealed, along with their cavalier approach to the scripts they hold. There is so much humor that the playwright's theme within the theme will leave today's modern audience marveling at how insightful and fresh the play feels today.

* Trouble in Mind Permission granted by Flora Roberts, Inc. 275 Seventh Ave. New York, NY 10001


Alice Childress (playwright) has been described as a distinguished woman of her time, a literary genius, a great collaborator and an inspiration for African American women in drama.

In 1939, Childress joined the American Negro Theatre (ANT) in Harlem. After appearing in the play, Anna Lucasta, Childress decided to become a playwright. By 1949, she had completed her first play, Florence, which launched her writing career. Childress was the first black woman to get her plays professionally produced on stage in New York. For all of her accomplishments as a black woman, her efforts went largely unnoticed.

When Trouble In Mind was scheduled to open on Broadway, the producers felt that the show needed more of an uplifting ending as well as a new title. Childress refused to make the ending more happy and palatable to white audiences so the show never made it to Broadway. The same year the show was scheduled to open, Lorraine Hansberry's ARaisin In The Sun opened and became the popular choice for critics.

Childress' writing did not follow in the shadow of the typical dramatist; she had her own agenda with her writing. Her main focus was to combine her gender with her art. She shocked her audiences and critics with her skilled characterization of African Americans and females, and also dramatized issues she saw in society, including segregation. She lived in a society where blacks were not allowed to share white space. They were not allowed to enter through the same door as white people, drink from the same fountains, or even ride on the same bus. This type of inhumane treatment fueled her writings. Her plays include Florence, GoldThrough The Trees, Wine in the Wilderness, Trouble In Mind, Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story In Black And White and Let's Hear It For The Queen.

For a brief period Childress expanded her writing from plays to novels. She wrote three children's novels, A Hero Ain't Nothing but a Sandwich, which was made into a film in 1978, Rainbow Jordan and Those other People. Alice Childress died of cancer in 1994.

Erich McMillan-McCall (Founder, PROJECT1VOICE) A native of Birmingham, AL, Erich McMillan-McCall received a BFA from Birmingham-Southern College. His Broadway credits include The Who's Tommy and Chicago. He was part of the national tours of Dreamgirls, Ragtime, Chicago, Sunset Boulevard, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Dirty Dancin'. His television appearances include roles on "30 Rock," "One Live to Live," "All My Children" and "Guiding Light." He has also worked in editorial fashion at Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair and Glamour Magazines.

The Ensemble Theatre was founded in 1976 by the late George Hawkins to preserve African American artistic expression and enlighten, entertain and enrich a diverse community. This 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; and the Young Performers Program offers intensive summer training for youth ages six to 17 encompassing instruction in all disciplines of the theatre arts. 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