September 7, 2010

Historic Black Ensemble Theater to Break Ground September 10

by Gregory Dale
AFRO Staff Writer

The historic Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago announced it will break ground on a new $16 million performance and cultural facility on Sept. 10. The new space will include a multitude of amenities and will finally provide an established place the theater company can call home.

“Owning anything is vital to the survival of the product,” Jackie Taylor, founder of the Black Theater Ensemble told the AFRO in a recent interview. “Black Ensemble Theater is an institution and in order to solidify that institution, you must own where you live or you’re putting the organization at risk. It’s vital that in building the Black Ensemble Theater in generations to come, we provide an asset that can be utilized. It’s vitally important...”

Read complete article here: Black Ensemble Theatre.

From Wikipedia: Black Ensemble Theater Company is a theater company that has performed at the Black Ensemble Theater in the Uptown community area of Chicago, Illinois. The company is known for productions related to African-American culture, especially musicals depicting notable African-American musicians and performers. The company is a significant contributor to Chicago's emergence as a Theater Town, and its theater has been selected as one of the 25 top major theaters in the country by the Encyclopedia Britannica Almanac.

The company has performed in the Black Ensemble Theater at 4520 N. Beacon St., but it is planning to relocate at the 4440 N. Clark Street, which is also in Uptown and which is more than twice as large. The new theater will be designed by Morris Architects Planners, who has previously designed Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, and Playhouse on the Square. The new 50,000-square-foot (4,600 m2) theater is being located in a former warehouse that cost US$3.5 million to purchase and many times more than that to renovate. Approximately $20 million is being raised to fund the construction of the new theater.

Among the recent productions are musicals celebrating Billie Holiday, Dionne Warwick, Teddy Pendergrass, and Stax Records. The current (as of September 2008) production I Am Who I Am (The Story of Teddy Pendergrass) that opened on March 15, 2008 has been extended through the end of 2008. The company has a history of presenting as many as a half dozen productions a year since opening in 1976. The theater's productions have been critically recognized. Some have had lengthy multiple-year runs and national tours such as The Jackie Wilson Story, which was the first traveling production of the Black Ensemble Touring Venture and which played for four weeks at the Apollo Theater. The theater company has also traveled nationally to perform to festivals.

The group's more than one hundred performances have been produced by its founder, Jackie Taylor, since 1976. When producing musical biographies, Taylor uses a formula of including at least eighteen of the artist's hits, some high points and low points in the artist's career, at least one climactic moment of chaos and an uplifting ending, which is the most important element.

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