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Ensemble Theatre Retires Capital Campaign Debt

Houston Endowment grants $250,000 for capital debt retirement enabling theatre to plan a Mortgage Burning Ceremony

HOUSTON, Dec. 23, 2003 -- The Ensemble Theatre is pleased to announce that it has been awarded $250,000 from the Houston Endowment Inc. Of the total grant, $200,000 is for debt retirement and $50,000 will be allocated for capital improvements. Since 1991, Houston Endowment Inc. has granted a total of $1,220,500 to The Ensemble, including an annual operating grant as well as major support for the theatre's capital campaign. Of the $250,000, Houston Endowment designated $50,000 to paint the interior and exterior of the building and install new carpet throughout the building just in time for the Super Bowl XXXVIII festivities in February. "The board and staff of Houston Endowment are pleased to be able to support the mission of The Ensemble Theatre and contribute to many bright future seasons," remarked HEI president H. Joe Nelson, III.

"We are extremely pleased that the Houston Endowment continues to support the purpose and the work of The Ensemble Theatre," stated Janette Cosley, executive director of The Ensemble. "We appreciate the wonderful gift that helps to provide long-term financial stability for the theatre."

The Metro Board of Directors will also bestow a gift to The Ensemble by formally unveiling one of its 16 METRORail stops -- Ensemble/HCC -- on January 1, 2004 during the agency's Opening Day Inaugural activities. Despite the two years of construction on Main Street and Fannin Street in preparation for the light rail system, the theatre's box office numbers managed to maintain and, in some cases, increase during the construction project. METRORail is projected to transport thousands of passengers daily to a stop located at The Ensemble's doorstep, heightening the theatre's marketing exposure.

"Unveiling the Ensemble/HCC Station as part of METRORail's debut brings the new year to a dramatic start." said METRO President & CEO Shirley A. DeLibero. "The station, which highlights art, theater and entertainment symbols, is one of 16 that were designed by local artists to fit the individual neighborhoods along the 7.5-mile route. We are delighted to serve theater-goers with this special stop."

To commemorate these two historic milestones for the theatre, The Ensemble's board of directors and staff will be joined by representatives of Houston Community College to host activities celebrating METRORail's Grand Opening on January 1, 2004, from 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. The afternoon features entertainment, play excerpts, and other fun family activities. The highlight of the celebration will be a mortgage burning ceremony for the theatre at 3:30 p.m. on The Ensemble's George Hawkins Main Stage. Rev. William A. Lawson, pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, will officiate. The mortgage burning ceremony serves as a symbolic occasion and proud moment in the history of theatre, for now a community of stakeholders truly own the building.

"This accomplishment establishes The Ensemble Theatre as the largest African American theatre in the nation that owns, operates and produces its productions in house," stated Argentina M. James, president of The Ensemble's board of directors. "This accomplishment serves as testament to the board, artists, staff, patrons and financial supporters of this historic institution we call The Ensemble Theatre." Marsha Jackson-Randolph, Producing Artistic Director of the theatre also observes, "A cultural organization that owns its own building-in a sense, holds its own destiny. Through this gift, the Endowment has afforded us more than a deed to a building-they have afforded us the foundation necessary for our continued development as a world-class institution."

The Ensemble Theatre

Founded in 1976 by the late George Hawkins, The Ensemble Theatre is one of the oldest and most distinguished professional theaters in the southwestern U.S. devoted to the African America experience. The mission of The Ensemble Theatre is to preserve African American Artistic Expression: to enlighten, entertain, and enrich a diverse community. From its humble beginnings as a touring company, The Ensemble now presents a full season of classic and contemporary African American works by local and national playwrights and artist. In addition, The Ensemble provides touring and in-house performances for young audiences, community outreach, and training for young artist through The Young Performers Program. The Ensemble, one of the few African American theaters in the country to own and operate its own facility, boast a main stage auditorium with seating for 200, an arena stage that seats 125, and a grand performance hall that accommodates 500 people.

Houston Endowment Inc.

Houston Endowment Inc. was established in 1937 by Mary (Gibbs) and Jesse Holman Jones as an extension of their personal philanthropy. They made substantial gifts to the foundation, and it became the principal beneficiary of their estates after their deaths. The foundation contributes to a broad spectrum of programs in education, health care, human services, cultural arts, and other areas.


Due to board its first passengers in 2004, METRO's light rail line, running 7.5 miles from Downtown to south of Reliant Park, will follow the Main and Fannin streets corridor, linking Downtown, Midtown, the Museum District, Hermann Park, the Texas Medical Center and Reliant Park.

The train will stop at 16 stations, including the Downtown and Texas Medical Center Transit Centers. Passengers may transfer to and from METRO buses and make connections to University of Houston Downtown, two Houston Community College Campuses (Central and Southeast Galen), Rice University, the Houston Zoo, Market Square, Minute Maid Park, the new NFL stadium and the Harris County Exposition Center and many other popular destinations. View artist renditions and the rail in action METRO's light rail vehicles will feature a modern low-floor design, providing direct access without stairs from the station to the vehicle. Take a virtual tour of the rail car being specified by METRO.

CONTACT:  The Ensemble Theatre 
          Argentina M. James 
          Andrea Barefield 
          (713) 520-0055