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    Posted January 27, 2012

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Black Ensemble Theater Celebrates

New Home, New Theatre,
Long Awaited Cultural Center

By Luther Goins
Central Region Business Representative,
National EEO Coordinator

They are calling it "the house that Jackie built." Jackie Taylor that is-founder, producer, playwright and Artistic Director.

The new Black Ensemble Cultural Center, an impressive, multifaceted, $19 million facility opened on November 18, 2011 with a not-to-be missed reception and with a new production of the award-winning musical, The Jackie Wilson Story (written by none other than Jackie Taylor).

Dionne Warwick, Jackie Taylor, Governor Pat Quinn

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, pop icon Dionne Warwick and scores of corporate, foundation and political representatives attended the VIP reception and show. The amazing facility, designed by architect John Morris, includes interior designs by Dionne Warwick, a 299-seat Main Stage theatre, a (coming soon) 150-seat Studio Theatre, and much needed space for Black Ensemble's numerous arts and educational outreach programming.

Jackie Taylor, who began her welcome and thank you speech by stating, "If I'm dreaming, please don't wake me until the bills come," reinforced Black Ensemble's mission (which is highlighted by productions and programs that perpetuate the history of African-American people) and promised to continue to bring generations of talented African-Americans to life on the professional stage.

Ms. Taylor is also pleased that she has been able to employ Equity members over the years. "Black Ensemble Theater is proud of the number of Equity artists that we have been able to employ through the past 35 years," she says. "Now with the completion of our Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center we will be able to serve our artists by offering a higher Equity pay scale. It is so satisfying as an Equity actress myself, since 1972 as well as an Equity producer since 1976, to be able to continue benefiting our union artists."

Carrie Louise Abernathy is one of the Equity artists who has benefited by being part of the Black Ensemble family. "To me first and foremost Black Ensemble wraps its arms around its members and you become a part of family and everyone is learning. People are willing to assist you. It is a teaching theatre and there is a constant learning environment. My first experience with Black Ensemble was as an understudy in their 150-seat basement theatre several years ago. Since that time Black Ensemble Theater has made its way up and out of that basement and has become the 300-seat New Black Ensemble Cultural Center and Theater. It is a jewel that has been added to North Clark Street in Chicago. The theatre opens its arms not only to the actors but to the community. It serves a diverse audience, in race and in age. It is a Black Ensemble tradition at the end of each show for the cast to go to the lobby and greet audience members. As an Equity member, it warms my heart to see the smiling faces and hear the comments from the audience."

Founded in 1976 by Jackie Taylor (most of the scripts are written by Jackie), Black Ensemble Theater has grown from a small community arts organization to a nationally and internationally renowned arts institution. Black Ensemble achieves its mission through productions and programs that perpetuate the history of the African American people while reaching out to a cross-cultural audience and serving disenfranchised communities. The Black Ensemble Theater's theatrical productions and educational outreach programs have been featured in The New York Times, The New York Post, Crain's Chicago Business, Jet Magazine and bony Magazine.

Jackie is also the recipient of Equity's 2010 Rosetta LeNoire Award for her work at Black Ensemble Theater and her cultural contributions to the city of Chicago.

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