THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE
www.ensemblehouston.com



Artistic Director of The Ensemble Theatre EILEEN J. MORRIS

Presents

 

Written By Pearl Cleage

Directed By Eileen J. Morris

March 19 - April 12, 2015

 


WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS written by Pearle Cleage and directed by Eileen J. Morris is showing from March 19 through April 12, 2015 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo courtesy of The Ensemble Theatre.  For more information, click on www.EnsembleHouston.com

 

The Ensemble Theatre Kicks off Regional Premiere ďWhat I Learned in ParisĒ

The Ensemble Theatre kicks off its spring production, What I Learned in Paris, a romantic comedy by best-selling novelist and author Pearl Cleage and directed by Ensemble Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris.

 

Old loves rekindle and new love ignites in this funny and delightfully urban love story. Set against the colorful and passionate times of the 1970ís this sparkling new romantic comedy takes audiences back to when mini-skirts and bell bottoms rocked to the tune of Stevie Wonderís 1973 hit, ďLiviní for the City; womenís liberation raised the conscience of the nation; and Atlanta made history by electing Maynard Jackson as its first Black Mayor.

 

Featured cast members include: Yunina Barbour-Payne, making her debut on The Ensemble Theatre stage; Kendrick ďKayBĒ Bown, just seen in Fly; Cynthia Brown Garcia, who was in The Ensembleís premiere of the Thomas Meloncon play Christmas with Great Aunt; Detria Ward, who won the 2013 Houston Press Best Actress for her performance in The Ensembleís production of Pearl Cleageís The Nacirema Society; and Mirron Willis, who most recently performed as Malcolm X in The Meeting.

 

Show Run:     March 19 Ė April 12, 2015

Thursdays:      7:30 p.m.

Fridays:           8:00 p.m.

Saturdays:       2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Sundays:         3:00 p.m.

 

 


WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS written by Pearle Cleage and directed by Eileen J. Morris is showing from March 19 through April 12, 2015 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo courtesy of The Ensemble Theatre.  For more information, click on www.EnsembleHouston.com

Where:                The Ensemble Theatre

                                    3535 Main St.

                                    Houston, TX 77002

                                    713-520-0055

                                    www.EnsembleHouston.com


The Ensemble Theatre's 2014-2015 Season is sponsored in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. United Airlines is the official airline sponsor for The Ensemble Theatre.
What I Learned in Paris is generously underwritten by Chevron.

 

The Ensemble Theatre was founded in 1976 by the late George Hawkins to preserve African American artistic expression and to enlighten, entertain, and enrich a diverse community. Thirty-eight years later, the theatre has evolved from a touring company operating from the trunk of Mr. Hawkinsí car to being one of Houstonís finest historical cultural institutions. The Ensemble is one of a few 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, it holds the distinction of being one of the nationís largest African American theatres owning and operating its facility and producing in-house. Board President Emeritus Audrey Lawson led the capital campaign for The Ensembleís $4.5 million building renovations that concluded in 1997. 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 myriad audiences.

###


WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS written by Pearle Cleage and directed by Eileen J. Morris is showing from March 19 through April 12, 2015 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo courtesy of The Ensemble Theatre.  For more information, click on www.EnsembleHouston.com

 

 

An Educational Journey to Paris

Interview with Yunina Barbour-Payne and Detria Marie Ward who stars in What I Learned in Paris

By Theresa Pisula
Theresa@HoustonTheatre.com
March 20, 2015

 

As I sat down to interview Yunina Barbour-Payne and Detria Marie Ward for the Ensemble Theatre production of What I Learned in Paris, I didnít know at the time that I was interviewing the two wives of JP Madison.  Yunina plays Ann Madison, the young, impressionable, twenty-something year old wife of JP and Detria plays the more mature ex-wife Evie Madison.  The dynamic between these three main characters create romantic chaos and confusion but eventually the characters find their truth and their real selves after Evie shares what she learned in Paris.

Yunina Barbour-Payne holds an M. A. in Performance Studies from Texas A&M University and a B. A. in Integrated Studies from Northern Kentucky University with areas of concentration in Theater, Dance, Psychology and Black Studies.  Her performances can be found at the Museum of Blacksburg Odd Fellows Hall and have been presented at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Theresa:  Yunina, this is your first time in Ensemble Theatre.  Where have you been prior?

Yunina:  I recently graduated from Texas A&M with my Masters in Performance Studies in May of last year.  I moved home to Louisville, Kentucky for a little bit about 2 months.  I grew up in Louisville, and I went to undergrad in Northern Kentucky University, spent some time in Ohio and I just moved to Houston in June.  I moved to Texas about 2 years ago to do my Masters at A&M College Station.  I knew I was going back to Houston because I already had a job lined up.  Literally, the week that I got here, two days later I auditioned for the Ensembleís season and next thing you know Iím here!

Theresa:  Do you have family here?

Yunina:  I donít.  The closest relatives are in Baton Rouge but most of my family is in the Midwest.

Theresa:  In your own words, what is this play about?

Yunina:  I think itís a story of womenís empowerment.  It honestly and truly reveals three different levels of what it means to come into understanding yourself as a woman and the power that you hold.  My character in particular Ann is in the beginning of that journey whereas Detriaís character Evie is at the end of that journey.  The third female character Lena represents what it means to be in between.  So, through Annís interactions with the other two women and the men in the story, sheís able to know herself and within that, able to understand what it means to be a woman in the Ď70s.  Particularly a historical moment for the African American society.

Theresa:  Tell us more about the part that youíre playing.

Yunina:  I play Ann Madison who is the young second wife of JP Madison.  Sheís a secretary from the country and sheís on a campaign for Maynard Jackson, who at that time was just elected as Atlantaís first Black Mayor.  As you meet her on the show, she is at a bit of an awkward moment because sheís in love with someone else not JP Madison.  Because of that, sheís struggling with her obligations to her family and with JP and to her true love who is John.

 


(L-R) Mirron Willis as JP Madison, his wife Ann played by Yunina Barbour-Payne is in love with John Nelson played by Kendrick Brown.  WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS written by Pearle Cleage and directed by Eileen J. Morris is showing from March 19 through April 12, 2015 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo courtesy of The Ensemble Theatre.  For more information, click on www.EnsembleHouston.com

Theresa:  Who influenced you in pursuing a career in theatre? 

Yunina:  My mentor Daryl Harris.  He is a professor in Northern Kentucky University.  He is a director / designer / actor.  You name it, heís done it.  Iíve always been in the performing arts wherein I started doing drama in sixth grade.  But I donít think I really entertained it as an idea for a career or something that I can do as a lifelong passion until I started working with him.  I mean he directed me in three shows and got designed in two of the shows that I was in as an undergrad.  That is when he gave me the professional contacts that I needed to work in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Theresa:  If you werenít on stage, what would you be doing?

Yunina:  Something along the lines of Art Therapy.  I got my Masters in Performance Studies.  I focused on embodied performances and personal expressions of survival.  So, something along the lines of teaching.

Theresa:  What would you like the audience to again from watching this play?

Yunina:  I want them to walk away to be touched by the story of all the characters.  I hope that they leave understanding that while we are focusing on the moment of time in the 1970s, there are a lot of connections in terms of politics and what it means to be a truth teller in any decade.  Itís something that we can still apply to our society today.


(R-L) JP Madison played by Mirron Willis tries to talk some sense into his ex-wife Evie played by Detria Ward.  WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS written by Pearle Cleage and directed by Eileen J. Morris is showing from March 19 through April 12, 2015 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo courtesy of The Ensemble Theatre.  For more information, click on www.EnsembleHouston.com

 

Detria Marie Ward is a native Houstonian and B. F. A. theatre graduate of Texas Southern University.  She is the recipient of the 2013 Best Actress Houston Press Theatre Awards.  After 15 years of dedicated service with KTSUís 90.9 FM, Detria accepted the request to be general manager of Music World Entertainment Management (and former home of Beyonce and Destinyís Child).  Detria has been seen on the Ensemble stage in The Old Settler, Knock Me A Kiss, and as matriarch Grace Dubose Dunbar The Nacirema Society, which she received back-to-back Giorgee Awards for Best Actress.

Theresa:  Ms. Detria, how are you doing?

Detria:  Iíve been doing real good actually.

Theresa:  Iíve seen you in Constant Star, American Menu as Johnnie May.

Detria:  (laughs) that was a good one.

Theresa:  The Waiting Room as Cookie Whitaker.  I interviewed you in Geeís Bend.  What is the most favorite role youíve ever played?

Detria:  Thatís impossible

Theresa:  (laughs)

Detria:  Thatís literally impossible. 

Theresa:  You were a mother in Knock Me A Kiss.  And of course, The Old Settler as Bess Borny.  I love all the characters youíve played especially that last one.  You made me cry and laugh.  It was funny, and then it was sad.

Detria:  It could have had that double whammy going on there. 


Detria Marie Ward plays Evie Madison, the ex-wife of JP Madison.  WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS written by Pearle Cleage and directed by Eileen J. Morris is showing from March 19 through April 12, 2015 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo courtesy of The Ensemble Theatre.  For more information, click on www.EnsembleHouston.com

Theresa:  In every role Iíve seen you play, you are just amazing.

Detria:  I give 100 plus percent, if there is such a thing, then I give a hundred plus.  If there is no such thing, then I give absolutely 100 percent.

Theresa:  What would you say is your favorite role?

Detria:  I donít have a favorite role.  Actually, I have just been so blessed that American Menu and Nacirema Society and then this one has taken over a little bit.  Maybe those are the top three.  But then I have to go back (laughs).  I donít want to go too far back.  Well, actually I could, because Fannie, which I donít think you were here then, in BLUE.  Iíve just been fortunate to be cast right, if you will.  Thatís really the best thing I can say.  Eileen (Morris, Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre) does an absolutely excellent job among her visiting directors.  Coming from another state and seeing the talent here and casting the right people.  So I think Iíve been cast well.

Theresa:  Tell us about the part that youíre playing in What I Learned in Paris.

Detria:  Oh my!  Eve Madison, prefers to be called Evie, sheís a journey seeker.  She believes in adventures.  Sheís travelled all around, sheís changed over time and what youíre going to get is some of who she is now as opposed to who she was.  Getting to be who she is through these journeys that sheís already taken.  Sheís basically sharing who sheís become in her discovery with this group of people.  Not necessarily people she knew, some of them have never met her before.  But itís all about her sharing her experiences to bring out who Ann is, her sharing brings out who her husband was, her sharing brings out Lena, the other female character, who she can be.  She just touches everybody.  Then, she even brings out Johnís character.  She just comes in and they all take part in her sharing all the way around everybody.  Itís like take this journey, hereís this journey, Bam!  Who are you now?


(R-L) Detria Marie Ward plays Evie Madison who is in a deep conversation with Lena Jefferson played by Cynthia Brown Garcia.  WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS written by Pearle Cleage and directed by Eileen J. Morris is showing from March 19 through April 12, 2015 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo courtesy of The Ensemble Theatre.  For more information, click on www.EnsembleHouston.com

Theresa:  What type of research did you have to do for this role?

Detria:  Fortunately we have a dramaturg (laughs).  Thatís the good part.  We have lots of information.  We had, what I would call, pretty deep discussions.  We also had the opportunity to speak with the writer Pearl Cleage.  The combination of the information was phenomenal.  It was great to hear exactly what she meant by something, as a writer, that was awesome.  To be able to ask her questions, everybody was able to ask her pretty much anything you wanted to.  Even though it was at an early stage, it got us started kicking off really well.

Theresa:  Yunina, you werenít around in the Seventies.

Yunina:  I wasnít (laughs).

Theresa:  (Laughing) did you have to do extra research to find out what happened back then?

Yunina:  I absolutely utilized the research given to us by the dramaturg.  I gained information from my mother and my aunts, they were the second level of research.  They told me what it was like during the Seventies as far as women who basically came of age around the same time as my character did.  And then, just listening to all the conversations that we had during rehearsals.  There were plenty of people there who chimed in on how it was.  What they did and did not do back then (laughs).


(L-R) Yunina Barbour-Payne plays Ann Madison, Detria Marie Ward plays Evie Madison and Cynthia Brown Garcia plays Lena Jefferson.  WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS written by Pearle Cleage and directed by Eileen J. Morris is showing from March 19 through April 12, 2015 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo courtesy of The Ensemble Theatre.  For more information, click on www.EnsembleHouston.com

 

Theresa:  Ms. Ward, you won the Best Actress award for Nacirema Society written by the same author Pearl Cleage.

Detria:  Yes, I won it twice, double in one year.  I won Best Actress here at the Ensemble Theatre and then I was voted Best Actress by the Houston Press.

Theresa:  What were the differences between the character in Nacirema Society and your character here in What I Learned in Paris?

Detria:  Thatís a good question. 

Theresa:  Is this play more of a light-hearted comedy?

Detria:  Nacirema wasnít really hard, it had a good balance in there.  But What I Learned in Paris is totally different.  Theyíre completely different.  The times are totally different, Nacirema Society goes even further back in time whereas there were a lot of things not being done.  There were a lot of things people were leery of, even more so than in the Seventies.  It was just two different worlds, two different stories altogether.  The characters were completely different. 

Theresa:  That is a testament of how phenomenal a writer Pearl Cleage is.  What was it like to talk to her?

Detria:  She is just so down to earth, very willing, totally open and that made for a great comfort zone.  She actually intended to come for Nacirema Society but she doesnít fly.  There were travel issues but I was so looking forward to meeting her.  But it was awesome to talk to her.

Theresa:  What would you like the audience to gain from watching this play?

Detria:  I would like for them to gain a few things, one that the Ensemble Theatre is definitely a place to come for good, real Theatre.  Two, that Houston has great talent here as seen on this stage on regular.  Three, we still, as a society, as long as weíre living, have an opportunity to grow and take journeys.  To continue to keep finding out who we are and to BE STRONG!

 


WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS written by Pearle Cleage and directed by Eileen J. Morris is showing from March 19 through April 12, 2015 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo courtesy of The Ensemble Theatre.  For more information, click on www.EnsembleHouston.com