• June 12, 2024

Houston’s Ensemble Theatre forges alliance with National Association of Black Theatre Building Owners

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HOUSTON (June 1, 2021) – The National Association of Black Theatre Building Owners will share knowledge, resources, increase awareness of the vital importance of African American theater to the cultural fabric of our country and work together to insure the sustainability and growth of the Black theaters national landscape.   

“As the oldest Black professional theatre in the southwest that owns its facility, The Ensemble Theatre is honored to be a founding member of this new alliance.  It is important that our Black Theatre Legacy be maintained and upheld, and this alliance ensures that our pathways remain wholly identified,” said Eileen J. Morris, Artistic Director, The Ensemble Theatre.  

Photo credit: The Ensemble Theatre-Houston

In an effort to share knowledge, resources and strengthen the infrastructure of the Black theatre landscape in the United States, the country’s independent Black theatre building owners,  including The Ensemble Theatre-Houston, have forged a new alliance. The National Association of Black Theatre Building Owners (NABTBO) will work together to ensure the sustainability, longevity, and growth of the Black Theater Movement in the United States.  

We honor, respect, and support all of our Black Theater companies, collegiate, store fronts, church theaters across the nation that continue to amplify our voices, indeed we are proud to a part of this important community. We are all playing in the same field and there is room and a need for all of us.  Members of NABTBO only differ in that we have built property on the playing field which creates a different perspective and responsibility as landowners.   

Thus far, the members of NABTBO are: The Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Texas (ensemblehouston.com);   The Arena Players in Baltimore, MD (arenaplayersinc.com); The Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago, Ill. (blackensembletheater.org); Westcoast Black Theater Troupe (wbtt.org) in Sarasota, Florida ETA in Chicago, Ill. (etacreativearts.org); Hattiloo Theatre in Memphis, Tenn. (hattiloo.org); and National Black Theatre in New York City (nationalblacktheatre.org).  First brought together by Chuck Smith, celebrated and award-winning national theater director, who urged them to start working together, the leaders of these theaters have committed to being a conduit for creating strategies and building platforms to benefit Black Theater as a holistic community.  We are increasing our interaction and communication while developing and implementing strategies that will affect positive change resulting in strengthening the Black Theater community on a national level.   

The membership of NABTBO believes that “in owning our buildings we are an indestructible force that stands together to ensure that these ‘homes’ will continue to remain a birthplace for our playwrights, actors, designers, musicians and artists.  We offer permanent shelter and an opportunity to live, grow, and thrive while moving forward in our commitment to perpetuate the importance of Black Theater to the growth and development of American culture.  

Every family has or had a storyteller like August Wilson’s character, “Aunt Ester.” Entrepreneurial siblings like those in Dominique Morisseau’s play, “Detroit 67,” continue to keep Black American communities exciting and innovative. The journeys taken in Pearl Cleage’s “Flyin’ West” and Celeste Bedford Walker’s “Camp Logan” are important to travel over and again.  NABTBO is committed to writers such as these so that we may be a conduit to increase their longevity and put in place initiatives that will help their careers to flourish while working to spread their voices to audiences across the United States.    

In the 1960s, the Black Arts Movement prompted the need for culturally specific institutions dedicated to providing consistent employment and internship opportunities for Black artists. Today, the member-theatres of NABTBO are moving forward, ensuring that the Black Arts Movement is alive and well and living in their ‘houses’ while spotlighting, maintaining, and strengthening the Black aesthetic of then, now and tomorrow.   

For more information, call The Ensemble Theatre at 713-520-0055 or visit our website at www.ensemblehouston.com.

Photo credit: The Empower Theatre-Houston

George Scott

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