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  Post-Event Release
CONTACT:  Robert Ross
  August 24, 2016
(713) 807-4306/ 713-520-0055
  For Immediate Release

The Ensemble Theatre Hosted Celebrity Black Tie Gala and
40th Anniversary Celebration Kickoff

Actor Louis Gossett Jr Received the Lifetime Achievement Award

HOUSTON (August 24, 2016) – The Ensemble Theatre celebrated its 2016 Annual Fundraiser and awards-packed Celebrity Black Tie Gala entitled: The Ensemble Theatre: Celebrating 40 Years at the Hilton Americas- Houston, Saturday, August 20, 2016. This year’s fundraising efforts exceed more than $600,000 thanks to the theatre’s Founder’s Circle campaign and top gala sponsors: H-E-B, Schlumberger, Shell, Houston Fist Corporation, SES Foam, Anthony W. Hall Jr, Janiece Longoria and Steve Lasher, United Airlines, and a host of corporations and individuals who have invested greatly in the theatre’s growth and development.  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 more than 600 elated donors and supporters.

The Ensemble Theatre Founder’s Circle is a leadership giving group of diverse investors and stewards committed to ensuring the theatre continues as Houston’s premier center for African-American artistic expression. The Founder’s Circle has raised over $1M dollars in individual gifts since its inception.

Chairs:  Janiece Longoria, Honorary Chair; Paula McCann-Harris and John Rolfe Gala Dinner Co-Chairs

Photo Credits: Vicky Pink
Photo Link:

This year’s honorees included: Louis Gossett Jr, Lifetime Achievement; Angela Robinson, Actress of the Year; Harry Lennix, Actor of the Year; Anna Maria Horsford, President’s Award; C.J. Emmons, Rising Star; Houston First Corporation, Corporate Partner of the Year; METRO, Community Partner of the Year; and Mildred and Willie Bright, Founder’s Award.

Louis Gossett Jr. shared a recorded acceptance. “I am deeply honored by this lifetime achievement award from The Ensemble Theatre, a 40-year-old establishment,” said Gossett. “…y’all have captivated Broadway and must keep up that great work because it is sorely needed.”

The audience joined in laughter with Anna Maria Horsford, veteran actress who returned to daytime television in CBS “The Bold and the Beautiful” as she shared a story about how she got into theatre. “I got into theatre because I was an overactive child and my mother got tired of spanking me,” said Horsford.

Harry Lennix, who is currently on the NBC show “The Black List,” spoke about his belief regarding the creativity of artists. “As artists we are creators, and as creators I believe we are doing God’s work,” said Lennix.           

The evening began with a Mayor’s reception and silent auction containing an array of elegant jewelry pieces, autographed sports memorabilia, a walk-on role in the world premiere Front Port Society, and first class United Airline tickets. 

C.J. Emmons, both a Grammy and Emmy nominated artist who performs on the ABC show “Dancing with the Stars,” spoke about his inspiration for becoming an actor. “I got into theatre because my cousin brought me to The Ensemble Theatre where I saw Eileen Morris in A Raisin in the Sun,” said Emmons.

Four stages took attendees on a journey as oversized playbill banners were the back drop to one major production from each decade in the theatre’s history. A scene or song was performed from each: God’s Trombones (1982); A Raisin in the Sun (1993); Two Trains Running (2005); and The Wiz (2009). Performances and awards presentations danced around the room and kept guests on their toes with unexpected delights.
Guests enjoyed a three course meal with a hearty spring bouquet with frisee, cranberries, candied pecans, radish, and goat cheese crumbles with balsamic vinaigrette and garnished with a deviled egg; a duo entrée beef short rib with demi-glace and red onion marmalade topped with 2 drunken Jamaican U-12 shrimp with mango salsa; and swapper’s dessert including keylime pie with raspberry coulis and old fashioned butter cake with chocolate fudge icing garnished with candied orange and whipped cream.

KHOU11 Great Day Houston host Deborah Duncan enlivened the evening as mistress of ceremonies with her delightful exuberance.

The Ensemble Theatre Board Chair Argentina James capped the night off acknowledging sponsors and encouraging attendees to join in the season long celebration.

“The Ensemble Theatre could not present the wonderful art and programs it does without the artists, staff, volunteers, board, and sponsors,” said James. “We expect the energy and spirit of this evening to carry throughout our entire 40th anniversary season.”

The Yvonne Washington Band, helped conclude the program with a packed dance floor. Guests stayed and continued the celebration well into the evening.

Guests:  Mayor Sylvester Turner; State Representative Joseph Deshotel; Janis and Judge Levi Benton;  Alaina K. Benford; Michelle and Barry Barnes; Mildred and Willie Bright; Debbie M. White and Frank Brown; Brenda Peters-Chase and John Chase, Jr.; Drucie Chase; Tony Chase; Sallie Morian and Michael Clark;  Iris Cross; Jane-Page and James Crump; Kathy Flanagan;  Diedra and Terence Fontaine; Jane and Dean Gladden; Janice and Jonathan Hall; Ursula Hall; Paula McCann and Dwayne Harris; Winell Herron; Franklin Jones; Karen Labat; Vernon Landers; Loren and Austin Lane; Janiece Longoria and Steve Lasher;  A. Renee Logans; Lynda House-McPeters; Alice Otchere; Amy and Rob Pierce; Jackie Phillips; Jackie Pope; Mary and Earnest Redmond; Felicia and John Rolfe; Rosa and Vernon Rush; Tonya and Charles Valentine; LaShica Salter-Velazquez; Valerie and George Wright; 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.