HOUSTON, Jan. 7, 2008 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- The Ensemble Theatre will begin the new year with a regional premiere production of world renowned playwright August Wilson's classic play, Gem of the Ocean. Wilson commences on his 20th century charting of "black folks" in America with families scattered, souls dispersed, and all of them tossed and driven from sea to shining sea, passage to passage.

The production is directed by native Houstonian Allie Woods who has also directed other Ensemble productions. His directing credits include over 200 productions in both the United States and abroad, along with the New Federal Theatre's When the Chickens Come Home to Roost featuring Denzel Washington in his award-winning stage portrayal of Malcolm X. Other directing credits include Playwrights/Directors Units of both the Negro Ensemble Company and the Actors Studio New York Shakespeare Festival; Brooklyn Academy of Music; and the LaMama Experimental Theatre Club. Woods was a director observer with NBC's primetime series St. Elsewhere and Law & Order, and was a consulting director on the Malcolm and Elijah edition of Tony Brown's Journal. As an actor, his debut with the Alley Theatre was followed by membership with the Tony Award-honored Negro Ensemble Company in New York, the Broadway/Lincoln Center Theatre's Mule Bone and Miss Evers' Boys and roles in the Seattle Repertory Theatre's Gem of the Ocean which was directed by another native Houstonian, Phylicia Rashad. Woods comments, "As director/custodian and as an actor in some six of Wilson's plays, I stood on the sets and stages of his worlds and realized that I moved in the midst of historical, epic, corridors to themes and times which reflect the essential mission of black theatre, to reveal, revere and perhaps repair the souls of black folks."

Featured actors include: Clarence Whitmore, Timothy Eric Dickson, Autumn Knight, BeBe Wilson, Troy Hogan, Byron Jacquet and John Williams Stevens.

Preview dates are Saturday, Jan. 26th @ 8:00 pm; Sunday, Jan. 27th @ 3:00 pm, and Wednesday, Jan. 30th at 7:30 pm. Opening Night is Thursday, Jan. 31st at 7:30 pm with a Post Reception at The Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main St. Gem of the Ocean is generously supported by Shell Oil Company, Texas Commission on the Arts and the Houston Arts Alliance.

                         GEM OF THE OCEAN
                     Written by August Wilson
                  January 31 - February 24, 2008
                        Performance Times

 Previews:       Saturday        Jan. 26th          8:00 pm
                 Sunday          Jan. 27th          3:00 pm
                 Wednesday       Jan. 30th          7:30 pm

 Production      Thursdays       7:30 pm
 Run:            Fridays         8:00 pm
                 Saturdays       2:00 pm Matinee & 8:00 pm
                 Sundays         3:00 pm Matinee

                           Performance Times

                    Wednesday        10:00 am Feb. 6
                    Wednesday        10:00 am Feb. 13
                    Wednesday        10:00 am Feb. 20

For ticket information and groups sales, call the Box Office at (713) 520-0055.

** A free theatre workshop, "Scene Study and Presentation," will be conducted by director Allie Woods on Saturday, Jan. 5th from 5:00-7:00 pm at The Ensemble Theatre and is open to the public.

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. Thirty years later, the theatre has evolved from a touring company operating from the trunk of Mr. Hawkins' car to become one of Houston's finest historical cultural institutions. The Ensemble is one of the only professional theatres in the region dedicated to the production of works portraying the African American experience, the oldest and largest professional African American theatre in the Southwest, and holds the distinction of being one of the nation's largest African American theatres owning and operating its facility and producing in-house. The Ensemble Theatre has fulfilled and surpassed the vision of its founder and continues to expand and create innovative programs to bring African American theatre to a myriad of audiences.

The programs and operations of The Ensemble Theatre benefit a multi-cultural audience that is diverse in age, income, ethnicity and culture and its core audience is African American (70%). The Ensemble produces a Mainstage Season of six contemporary and classic works devoted to the portrayal of the African American experience by local and national playwrights and artists. The Ensemble'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 7 to 17 encompassing instruction in all disciplines of the theatre arts. Through its varied programs, The Ensemble projects to benefit an audience and artistic constituency that may potentially exceed 150,000 people annually.

The Ensemble Theatre logo is available at http://www.primenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=4566

The Ensemble Theatre * 3535 Main Street, Houston, Texas 77002 * Phone: 713.520.0055 * Fax: 713.520.1269 * www.ensemblehouston.com

Advantage Communications
Linda K. Brown, Media Relations Consultant
(713) 737-8321 

The Ensemble Theatre
Janette Cosley, Executive Director
(713) 520-0055