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The Ensemble Theatre Participates in an International Celebration of African American Theatre

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HOUSTON, June 4, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Ensemble Theatre is one of 30 African American theatres to participate in a national benefit staged play reading of A Soldier's Play by Charles Fuller, Monday, June 17, 2013, 6:30PM at 3535 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002.

"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."

The Ensemble Theatre's reading of Soldier's Play
Monday, June 17, 2013, 6:30PM
The Ensemble Performance Centre – Fannin and Berry Street Entrance
3535 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002
For information visit: http://www.ensemblehouston.com/programs/workshops.html
Tickets: $10 (In addition, donations are encouraged)

Actress/ Director Rachel Hemphill Dickson will direct The Ensemble Theatre's presentation of the A Soldier's Play.

Featured cast members include: Kelvin Hamilton, Wayne DeHart, Amir Bellamy, Kendrick Brown, Kevin Jones, Tristien Marcellous, Donald Collier, Derrick Brent, Rodney White, Omar Lewis, Steven Olson.

Project1VOICE, a not-for-profit performing arts service organization founded by New York-based actor/producer Erich McMillan-McCall to nurture, promote strengthen and preserve, the legacy and tradition of African-American theatre and playwrights, announces the 3rd Annual 1VOICE! 1PLAY! 1DAY!

On Monday, June 17, 2013, 30 theaters of the African Diaspora, from Los Angeles to New York to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, will come together in 1VOICE, to celebrate African American theater. On this international day of celebration, staged readings of the 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning classic drama A Soldier's Play by Charles Fuller will be presented simultaneously. These readings will feature stellar casts of national and local theater, television and film notables. Help keep African American theater strong, vital and alive by attending this historic and highly anticipated event.

The participating 2013 theatres are: African American Repertory Theatre (DeSoto, TX), Alabama State University, (Montgomery, AL) American Performing Arts Collaborative (New York, NY), American Theater Project (New Orleans, LA), The Billie Holiday Theatre (Brooklyn, NY), Black Spectrum Theatre (New York, NY), Boston Theater Collective (Boston, MA), Brown Box Theatre (Seattle, WA), The Hansberry Project (Seattle WA), Dillard University (New Orleans, LA), Ebony Repertory Theatre (Los Angeles, CA), The Ensemble Theatre (Houston, TX), Ensemble Theatre (Cleveland, OH) Freedom Theatre (Philadelphia, PA), Kuntu Repertory Theatre (Pittsburgh, PA), Lorraine Hansberry Theatre (San Francisco, CA), Mahogany Ensemble Theatre (Shreveport, LA) National Black Theatre (New York, NY), Negro Ensemble Company (New York, NY), New Federal Theatre (New York, NY), New Professional Theatre (New York, NY), The Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company (Syracuse, NY), The Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art (New York, NY), St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre (Saint Louis, MO), Uprooted (Port Elizabeth, SA), and Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (Sarasota, FL).

This event not only honors Charles Fuller's seminal work but also pays tribute to the 45th anniversary season of the Negro Ensemble Company and its co-founder Douglas Turner Ward. A Soldier's Play was chosen in commemoration of this theatrical milestone. Through this one day simultaneous event, Project1VOICE seeks to highlight the African-American theatre companies who are struggling for their very existence!

Project1VOICE was established in response to the severe economic downturn of 2008 that had a profoundly devastating impact upon African American theaters across the country. Many African American institutions closed as a result of this economic crisis. What began as a grassroots organization for survival soon developed into a national initiative. Project1VOICE is a national performing arts service organization, seeking to strengthen and promote African American theater and playwrights.

Through its innovative ideas and approaches to audience development, volunteerism, community engagement and fundraising, Project1VOICE focuses on providing solutions for sustainability and long term institutional growth with programs that educate, enlighten and entertain. Project1VOICE strives to preserve the legacy of African American theater and cultivate future generations of artists and arts patrons.

Celebrating its third successful year, Project1VOICE is committed to preserving the legacy and sustaining the growth of African American theater.

Key members of the Project1VOICE team are producer/production manager Gwen Gilliam; award-winning playwright/actor, Charles Reese, MOTOWN: The Musical director, Charles Randolph-Wright and marketing consultant/producer Marcia Pendelton (Walk Tall Girl Productions).

In the coming year, Project1VOICE will continue a national conversation about the challenges facing African American theaters with a focus on identifying "next steps" toward solutions. Sustainability is difficult for these theaters without compelling ideas toward innovative approaches for audience development, community outreach and fundraising. As James Baldwin once said, "Not everything faced can be changed but nothing can be changed until it is faced." We at Project1VOICE wish to educate, enlighten and entertain. Join us as we work towards changing the view and preserving the legacy of African American theater. How will your 1VOICE be heard?

1VOICE! 1PLAY! 1DAY! staged readings of A Soldier's Play will serve as fundraisers for the participating theaters and community engagement events to further develop audiences. It will also promote volunteerism, attract corporate and foundation funding, and seek in-kind goods and services. Help keep African American theater strong, vital and alive by attending this historic and highly anticipated event in your area.

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 www.project1voice.org.

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About A Soldier's Play

A Soldier's Play uses a murder mystery to explore the complicated feelings of anger and resentment that some African Americans have toward one another, and the ways in which many black Americans have absorbed white racist attitudes. Inspired by the Herman Melville novel Billy Budd, the story takes place at United States Army's Fort Neal, Louisiana in 1944 during the time when the military was racially segregated. In the opening scene, the audience witnesses the murder of black Sergeant Vernon Waters by an unseen shooter. Just before his death, Waters utters the enigmatic cry, "They still hate you!" The murder of Waters brings an investigator, Captain Davenport to the base. Davenport, the first black officer that most of the men have ever met, suspects that a pair of white men were responsible for Waters' death, but his probe reveals that nearly everyone, regardless of skin color, had ample reason to kill the loathsome but pitiable Waters.

The play was originally staged and produced by the Negro Ensemble Company at the Theatre Four. It opened on November 10, 1981 and ran for 468 performances and won, in addition to the Pulitzer, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play, and the Obie Award for Distinguished Ensemble Performance. The original cast included Adolph Caesar as Sergeant Waters, Denzel Washington as Private Peterson, Larry B. Riley as Private C.J. Memphis, Samuel L. Jackson as Private Louis Henson, Peter Friedman as Captain Charles Taylor, and Charles Brown as Captain Davenport.

The cast of the film, "A Soldier's Story," which Fuller adapted in 1984, features early supporting performances from several African-American actors who would go on to greater prominence, including Denzel Washington, David Alan Grier, Adolph Caesar and Robert Townsend. The film was nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Caesar) and Best Adapted Screenplay.

About The Playwright

Charles Fuller was born in Philadelphia. He achieved critical notice with The Village: A Party. He later wrote plays for the Henry Street Settlement theatre and the Negro Ensemble Company in New York. His 1975 play THE BROWNSVILLE RAID, won him critical acclaim. He won an Obie Award for ZOOMAN and the SIGN in 1980. His next work, A Soldier's Play, was a critical success, winning the 1982 Pulitzer Prize, Best American Play, New York Critics and Edgar Awards. He later adapted the script to the 1984 film A Soldier's Play. Directed by Norman Jewison, the film and his screenplay were nominated for Academy Awards, a Golden Globe Award and a Writers Guild of American Award. Fuller received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has also written short fiction, a novella "Snatch: The Misadventures of David and Me in Old New York" for young readers, screenplays for CBS, Showtime, NBC and PBS, and worked as a motion picture producer. He is member of the Dramatists Guild and Writer's of America, East. A new play, ONE NIGHT...commissioned by Cherry Lane will open in September of 2013 in New York City.

About The Director:

Rachel Hemphill Dickson is Director/ Actress who currently teaches theatre at the University of Houston-Downtown. She is also the Founding Artistic Director of Driven Theatre Company which focuses on issue based works. Rachel has directed several productions including: Sarah and Joshua: A Junetheenth Musical, Harlem After Hours, Neat, Lend Me a Tenor, and Courage of Mandy Kate Brown.

She has worked with The Ensemble Theatre as an actress for several years with her most recent performances including: Cinderella, The Ballad of Emmett Till, American Menu, The Waiting Room, Seven Guitars, The Man Who Saved New Orleans, and Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Performances she has directed at The Ensemble Theatre include: They Fought to Save Freedom, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, and School House Rocks.

In addition to her stage credits, Rachel has also earned numerous credits in film/television and voiceover industry, and recently had her playwriting debut with The List during the 2012 Museum of Printing History Museum Play Series.

* A Soldier's Play is made possible with permission granted by Samuel French, Inc.

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 6 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 rross@ensemblehouston.com

Source:The Ensemble Theatre