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CONTACT:  Robert Ross
  August 19, 2014 
(713) 807-4306/ 713-520-0055
  For Immediate Release

The Ensemble Theatre Celebrated its 2014 Anchor of Inspiration Celebrity Gala

Actors Hal Williams and Robert Townsend Received Top Honors

HOUSTON (August 19, 2014) – The Ensemble Theatre celebrated its 2014 Annual Fundraiser and Black Tie Gala entitled: Anchor of Inspiration at the Hyatt Regency-Downtown Houston, August 16, 2014. This year’s gala raised more than $350,000. The Gala serves as the theatre's major fundraiser supporting its annual $2 million operating budget that includes six mainstage season productions, and its educational initiatives directed toward youth. The theatre’s board of directors and staff were joined by nearly 700 delighted donors and supporters.

Photo Credit:  David Bray

Chairs:            Gala Honorary Chair The Honorable Sylvester Turner/ Gala Dinner Chairs Laurie
                        Vignaud and Deavra Daughtry.

Details:           This year’s celebrity honorees included: Hal Williams, who received the Legacy Award;             Robert Townsend, Director of the Year; LeToya Luckett, Rising Star Award recipient.
The celebrities were joined by local corporate and individual honorees: Founder’s Award recipients Jerelyn and DeFarris Gooden; President’s Award recipients The Lawson Family (Reverend William “Bill” and Audrey Lawson, Melanie, Cheryl, Eric, and Roxanne); BP, Community Partner of the Year, represented by Senior Director, Communication & External Affairs Michael Moore, and VP Reservoir Development Darryl Willis; and Community Investor of the Year, McConnell Jones Lanier & Murphy LLP (Wayne McConnell, Thomas Jones, Odysseus Lanier, Sharon Murphy, Eric Ernest, and Tenë Thomas), represented by Thomas Jones and Sharon Murphy.
“I believe it is imperative that we support Black theatre,” said Williams. “It provides an opportunity to tell our stories historically and most of all truthfully.”

Houston native, LeToya Luckett stopped the crowed as she appeared in a white gown designed by Melissa Greggs of Jenise Gregg Couture. Greggs was honored previously as The Ensemble Theatre’s Rising Star. Both ladies were involved with The Ensemble Theatre as youth.

“The Ensemble Theatre and Eileen Morris have been part of my life since I was four-years-old,” said Luckett. “It was because of her that I discovered my passion for entertaining and a big part of the reason I’ve extended beyond my musical career into acting.”

The evening began with a Mayor’s reception that included a silent auction containing an array of elegant jewelry pieces, autographed sports memorabilia, a private dinner with the Mayor, and first class United Airline tickets.  Guests also had the opportunity to purchase raffle tickets for a Houston Rockets Suite for up to 15 guests.

The Ensemble Theatre Young Performers and Silvanus LaToison gave the opening musical performance of the “Happy” song as guests were seated. Guests also enjoyed the premiere of The Ensemble Theatre staff, gala committee, and artists in their own music video of the “Happy” song to kick off the evening celebration.   The room décor included iridescent cobalt and tangerine linens with gold candelabra’s, and balls of blue hydrangeas and petite orange roses billowing from towering metallic vases. Guests enjoyed a three course meal with a red oak and butter lettuce salad, followed by an entrée of braised beef short ribs with jumbo crab stuffed shrimp, oven roasted new potatoes, and fresh rosemary broccolini with fresh rosemary, and finally, a dessert duet of key lime tart with meringue and a chocolate praline cake.

The program was interspersed with performances including the jazz number, “It Don’t Mean a Thing If it Ain’t Got That Swing,” from The Ensembles upcoming musical Trav’lin The 1930’s Harlem Musical sung by the evening’s hostess KHOU11 Great Day Houston host Deborah Duncan and Ensemble Theatre artist Anthony Boggess Glover. A scene from Fly was performed by Joseph “JoeP” Palmore. Honoree Robert Townsend was spontaneously inspired to join in on the entertainment as he gave improvised comical exchanges with Deborah Duncan, providing lots of laughs throughout the night.

The Yvonne Washington Band, helped conclude the program with a packed dance floor. Actor Robert Townsend even took the stage for an impromptu jam session with the band and guests continuing to celebrate well into the evening.

Guests:  Congressman Al Green; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee; Mayor Annise Parker;            Councilmember Larry Green; State Representative Senfronia Thompson; Michelle and Barry Barnes; Mary Benton; Mildred and Willie  Bright; Debbie M. White and Frank Brown; James Campbell; Yvette Chargois; Brenda Peters-Chase and John Chase, Jr.; Sallie Morian and Michael Clark; Janette L. Cosley; Sandie and Ken Cowan; Jane Page and John Crump; June Deadrick; Tim Fischer; Alton LaDay and Jonathon Glus; John F. Guess, Jr.; Ben Hall; Michelle Duckett-Hedgebeth; Micheal J. Helm; Kim and Jamie House; Argentina James; Dr. Ronald Johnson; Dr. Rhea Lawson; Dr. Elwyn Lee; Judge Bill Littlejohn; Lynda House-McPeters; Eileen J. Morris; Jackie Phillips; Ronald Ross; Dr. Docia Rudley ; Dawnia and Darryl Willis;  and Merele Yarborough.
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. 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.

The Ensemble Theatre produces a main stage season of six 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 children ages 6 to 17 encompassing instruction in all disciplines of the theatre arts.