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  Media Release
CONTACT:  Robert Ross
  February 8, 2018
(713) 310-1648/ 713-520-0055
   
   
  For Immediate Release
   
 

The Ensemble Theatre Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris Joins First Cohort of the BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle $1.25 Million Gifted To Support the Present and Future of Women in the American Theater

HOUSTON (February 8, 2018) The Ensemble Theatre Artistic Director, Eileen J. Morris is among five female artistic leaders selected as the first in the Nation awarded part of a $1.25 million gift of The Pussycat Foundation and Northern Stage in support of women artistic directors in professional theaters across the United States.  

“It is an overwhelming honor to be among this first group of phenomenal women in the arts,” says Morris. “Our industry has long been in need of broadening opportunities for female artistic leaders.”

The BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle grant, funded by the Pussycat Foundation and led by Carol Dunne, Producing Artistic Director of Northern Stage, will provide $1.25 million in support for Northern Stage and four other theaters run by female artistic directors during the 2018-2019 season.  Each theater will receive a $250,000 grant. The BOLD Circle’s mission is to create a network of women artistic directors in professional theaters across the United States and empower them to address the issues preventing women from advancing in theater leadership.  The BOLD Circle will offer major support of artistic initiatives focused on women artists and will create a formal mentorship program to train and prepare future women artistic directors to lead, to create, to innovate, and to deepen the impact of theater on American culture.

The first cohort of the BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle includes Susan Booth (The Alliance Theater, Atlanta, GA), Eileen J. Morris (The Ensemble Theatre, Houston, TX), Lisa McNulty (WP Theater, New York, NY), Sarah Rasmussen (Jungle Theater, Minneapolis, MN) along with BOLD founder Carol Dunne (Northern Stage, White River Junction, Vermont).

Each of the Artistic Directors chosen for the BOLD Circle has demonstrated artistic excellence and a deep impact on community.  The leaders have also demonstrated a strong history of mentoring, and will work together to elevate the next generation of artistic directors.  “We were overwhelmed by the applicants for the BOLD Circle,” says Dunne, who says the foundation received over 40 applications.  “The stories that our country’s women artistic directors had to tell should be required reading for anyone interested in why women hold such a small percentage of leadership positions in the American theater.  I am confident that this first cohort of visionary artistic directors will pave the way for countless others.”

Morris, a director, actress, and educator is a native of Chicago, Illinois. She attended Northern Illinoi University where she majored in Theatre and minored in English. Her professional career in the arts was just beginning when she relocated to Houston and met The Ensemble Theatre founder George W. Hawkins. They bonded through their passion to develop a space in Houston where African American artists could come together and hone their skills.  Her work with Hawkins spanned from 1982 until his death in 1990.

As The Ensemble Theatre artistic director, she has produced over 116 productions and directed more than 78 main-stage productions, which include eight world premieres and 57 regional premieres. Under her artistic leadership, The Ensemble Theatre received the 2013 Best Season Theatre Award from the Houston Press. In 2007, The Ensemble Theatre was named Best Theatre by the Houston Press and 2007 Best Showcase for African American Actors by the Ultimate Section of the Houston Chronicle. The Ensemble Theatre also presented two out of the 10 best plays named by the Houston Chronicle as the Best of Houston Theatre 2008.

Morris is an advocate for strong female representation in the arts both on and off stage. She serves as a mentor and advisor to female artists in Houston, Pittsburgh, and other cities around the nation. She incorporates her advocacy into her work by seeking opportunities to present works by female playwrights, by selecting productions with strong female characters, and by working with universities to provide internship opportunities that include female designers and technicians. She is recognized as one of Houston Women’s Magazine 2018, 50 most influential women.

Her awards and honors include both local and national organizations. She was most recently recognized with the Larry Leon Hamlin Legacy Award from the Black Theatre Network for leadership as Artistic Director of The Ensemble Theatre, in 2017. Morris received the 2017 Kim Hupp Award from the Bayou City Concert Musicals for Outstanding Contributions to Houston Musical Theatre, and named one of Houston’s 2017 Top 50 Black Professionals and Entrepreneurs by D-MARS Magazine. In 2016, she was awarded the Houston Press Theater Award for Best Director, Fences, by August Wilson. She was featured in the Women In Theatre Magazine (December 2011 Issue), a conversationalist with Table Talk through the University of Houston’s 2011 Women’s Studies Department, and honored at the National Black Theatre Festival with the Larry Leon Hamlin Producer Award. She received the 2012 Missouri City Chapter of Links Inc. Our Choice Award. She is a board member, secretary and Cultural Arts Committee Chair of the Midtown Management District, and a board member of the national organization, The Black Theatre Network. She also serves on the board of Theatre Communications Group, a national theatre resource organization. Morris is the ONLY woman in the country that has directed eight of the August Wilson Ten Play Cycle.

Along with the $250,000 grant, the BOLD Circle will provide leadership resources for women artistic directors as well as networking opportunities in semiannual meetings. It also provides for a woman Associate Director position designed to train the artistic directors of the future.

The Pussycat Foundation is a Private Operating Foundation in New York, New York, and is the philanthropic legacy of the late Helen Gurley Brown, founding editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine. During her lifetime, Brown began giving her money to organizations focused on transforming the lives of underprivileged children. As a trailblazer and devoted feminist, she believed that every girl and woman should feel empowered to pursue an education and cultivate a fulfilling career. Since its advent, the Pussycat Foundation’s charitable contributions have funded literacy and educational programs in various museums and universities. It is one of the largest organizations of its kind in the United States. 

The Ensemble Theatre (www.ensemblehouston.com) is the oldest and largest professional African-American theatre in the Southwest, founded in 1976 by the late George Hawkins with the mission to preserve African-American artistic expression, and enlighten, entertain and enrich a diverse community. Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris has helped guide the artistic vision of The Ensemble Theatre for 28 years, and has been integral to the fulfillment of its mission. The Ensemble Theatre has enjoyed national recognition, and has become well-known as Houston’s premiere African American performing arts institution and the anchoring arts organization of the city’s Midtown Management District. The Ensemble is an AUDELCO award winner, and one of the only professional theatres in the region dedicated to producing works portraying the African American experience, 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 continues to fulfill the mission and vision of its founder by creating innovative Education and Training programs, serving diverse communities, and bringing high quality African-American theatre to over 65,000 audience members each year. 

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