Artistic Director of The Ensemble Theatre EILEEN J. MORRIS




By Dominique Morisseau

Directed By Rachel Hemphill Dickson

May 9 - June 2, 2019


For more information, click on


The Ensemble Theatre Brings National Conversation to Stage in

ďPipelineĒ by Dominque Morisseau



Who/What:   The Ensemble Theatreís performance of Pipeline by Dominque Morisseau and directed by Rachel Hemphill Dickson elevates awareness of the national conversation about the educational system and the school-to-prison pipeline.


                        ďWe want to join Dominique Morisseau in sparking the conversation about the state of our educational system, the importance of the whole child being considered and the incongruities of our penal system,Ē says Hemphill Dickson. ďThe pain every one of the characters in Pipeline feels, begs the question: what is really the source of this school-to-prison path?Ē


According to Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit justice center, zero tolerance disciplinary policies, increased reliance on law enforcement and courts to address student misbehavior, and hostile school climates all contribute to a school-to-prison pipeline in Texas.


Pipeline tells the story of Nya, an inner-city public high school teacher, who is committed to her students but desperate to give her only son Omari opportunities theyíll never have. When a controversial incident at his upstate private school threatens to get him expelled, Nya must confront his rage and her own choices as a parent. But will she be able to reach him before a world beyond her control pulls him away?


Featured Cast members include: Teacake Ferguson (NYA); Tanner Ellis and Isaiah Holloway (OMARI); Brianna Odo-Boms (JASMINE); Curtis Von (XAVIER); Dealdon R. Watson (DUN); Marcy Bannor (LAURIE).


Show Run:    May 9 Ė June 2, 2019


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.



Where:           The Ensemble Theatre

                        3535 Main St, Houston, TX 77002




Ticket Prices: $23- $50


The Ensemble Theatre's 2018-2019 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.


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. Forty-two 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. Late Board President Emerita 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 a myriad of audiences.




PIPELINE starring (L-R) Curtis Von as Xavier and Teacake Ferguson as Nya.  PIPELINE is showing from May 9 - June 2, 2019 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo credit:  David Bray.  For more information, click on



Interviews with the cast of PIPELINE

By Theresa Pisula
May 9, 2019

Dominique Morisseau is a playwright whose works portray the lives of individuals and communities grappling with economic and social changes.  In PIPELINE, she uses lyrical dialogue to construct emotionally complex characters.  They exhibit humor, vulnerability and fortitude.  They deal with issues related to family problems, the school and educational environment and consequently, the prison system. 

Attending the opening night at the Ensemble Theatre is always a delicious treat.  The Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris always makes sure her guests are welcomed with fruits and scrumptious finger foods accompanied by a selection of red and white wine, tea and other beverages.  Tonightís show is special because in the audience, we were honored by the presence of Chandra Wilson, of Greyís Anatomy fame.  Having been born in Houston, Texas, she began performing in musicals at the age of five at Theatre Under the Stars.  Also, before the show, it was announced that the director of the play Rachel Hemphill Dickson, is the new Associate Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre. 


PIPELINE starring Teacake Ferguson as Nya.  PIPELINE is showing from May 9 - June 2, 2019 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo credit:  David Bray.  For more information, click on

Interview with Teacake Ferguson starring as

Nya in PIPELINE at the Ensemble Theatre

Teacake Ferguson is elated to be back home at the Ensemble Theatre.  She has been sailing the globe performing her very own shows for countless audiences.  Last seen on the Ensemble Theatre stage in SIMPLY SIMONE as Nina, other stage credits include Dreamgirls, Ainít Misbehaviní, Little Shop of Horrors, Geeís Bend, Christmas Cominí Uptown, Cinderella and The Wiz.


Teacake Ferguson Ė the Duchess of Soul YouTube video


Theresa:  Tell us about the part that youíre playing in PIPELINE.

Teacake:  I portray the role of Nya, the mother.  She is also a teacher. Trying hard to be the best mother she could be, in the midst of some troubles that her son is currently going through.

She is having a tough time right now, trying to balance it all.  She is trying to remain strong through it all.  But in the course of the show, everything starts boiling over until the spillage happens (laughs). 

Theresa:  What are the challenges in preparing for this role?

Teacake:  A lot of my personal challenges, is that thereís a lot of emotion.  Everything thatís happening right now, in this day and age, with police brutality and racism, and different instances that have occurred, you feel the angst and tears coming.  You try to really hold on. 


Theresa:  Just stay in controlÖ.

Teacake:  so that you can continue to tell the story without being too emotional.  Another challenge that I have is relating to mothers.  For me personally itís a challenge because Iím not a mother. 


Even though I call myself a bonus mom, because my husband Mark Wilson has an 8-year-old daughter.  And girls dominated my family.  Iíve lived my life being around girls and having to raise girls, but I know nothing about raising a young man.  And Nya is a mother of a seventeen-year-old son.  Thatís my challenge, is being relatable or being real.  I did a lot of research, I spoke with mothers of sons, I wanted to know how they felt.  I wrote down everything they told me, which I continue to do until closing night.


Theresa:  Whatís amazing is that youíre practically carrying the whole showÖ.

Teacake:  Yes.  But we (the ensemble cast) are all carrying the show.  While I do have the most in terms of stage time and lines, we all carry it because without every piece of the puzzle, the story does not get told.  Everyoneís very important in the story.


Theresa:  Are you originally from Houston? 

Teacake:  Born and raised.  I went to Worthing High School in Sunnyside.  I started going to University of Houston downtown.  Didnít finish and Iím not condoning that but my career pushing, everything was booming at that time.


I started professional theatre at the age of 14 as an understudy.  I havenít looked back since.  That was almost 21 years ago.  I am a singer / dancer / actress.  Itís been wonderful.

Theresa:  Youíre used to doing musicals.  What are the differences in doing a straight play like this and performing in onstage where you have to sing and dance?

Teacake:  Itís whiplash.

Theresa: (laughs)

Teacake:  Itís going from ďlet me sing!Ē (singing a high note) to not singing at all.  Singing comes naturally to me.  I can tell a story singing a song.  This is not my first straight play, but this particular role, is so deep that I have to dig down and summon my ancestors.  You know, really pray that I relay the messages.  The difference is, I donít have that crutch, which is singing and dancing.  You know, you dazzle the audience with a song and a dance.  With PIPELINE, itís raw emotion.  I donít have that much makeup on, I donít have the beautiful wigs and big hair and over the top glamour that comes with big musicals.  I just tell myself, ďthis is Nya.Ē  In fact, I had someone come to the show and didnít know it was me Teacake.  Until I told him the next day.  So, I consider that a compliment.  I am so appreciative for this role. 

Theresa:  Did you audition for this role?

Teacake:  I came here to the Ensemble Theatre to audition for a musical.  And the Artistic Director Ms. Eileen Morris said, I want you to audition for this role in PIPELINE.  I asked her, whatís Pipeline?  She said, ďOh, you can read about it later.Ē 

Theresa: (laughs) I guess she can already see you in the role of Nya.

Teacake:  I am so grateful to her and also Rachel Hemphill Dickson, our director.  She has really shaped and molded me.  But itís not over.  Rehearsal may be overÖ.

Theresa:  Tonightís opening night.

Teacake:  we are so ready.  We donít even consider this opening, because weíve been running it for the last two weeks with costumes and everything.  So, weíre ready.  Rachel (associate Artistic Director Rachel Hemphill Dickson) made sure we are ready. 

Theresa:  now, youíve worked with Eileen (J. Morris, Artistic Director) before. 

Teacake:  I have worked with Eileen before.  But Rachel as a director, I have not.  But she was my evil stepmother in Cinderella.  Having her as my director, I said ďoh YES!Ē

Theresa: (laughs) you know her, both singing in Cinderella.

Teacake:  yes, sheís an amazing actress.  In Cinderella, we were both singing and dancing (laughs).  We did, that was several years ago. 

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

Teacake:  I want them to feel a sense of Hope.  At the same time, in terms of mothers, Iíd like for them to realize that they have to listen to their children.  Instead of, Iím the mom, youíre the kid and thatís it.

Theresa: just do as I sayÖ

Teacake: our sons and even daughters, they need us to hear them.  One of the things my onstage son says, his first instruction to me is ďhear me out.Ē  If more parents could just hear their child out, I think we could go to the right direction of raising our young ones the way they should.

Theresa:  What would you like to say to the Houston theatre-going audience about PIPELINE?

Teacake:  It is necessary.  Every one from all walks of life should come see the show.  There are subjective languages, thereís a bit of profanity.  However, I do believe that it is important for our youth to see it and witness it.  Because the show is not only for adults, it is definitely for our youth.  I think everyone should come out, see it, spread the word.  Letís have conversations about the different issues that are in the play. 


PIPELINE starring (L-R) Marcy Bannor as Laurie, Dealdon Watson as Dun and Teacake Ferguson as Nya.  PIPELINE is showing from May 9 - June 2, 2019 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo credit:  David Bray.  For more information, click on

Interview with Dealdon Watson starring as

Dun in PIPELINE at the Ensemble Theatre


Dealdon is making his proud debut at the Ensemble Theatre.  He has an MFA in Acting from the University of Louisville.  His acting credits include Aaron the Moor in Titus Andronicus, Josh in Jockey Jim, Horatio in Hamlet and numerous others.  He has also written and directed plays in Spanish while serving as the professor of theatre for Quality Leadership University in Panama City, Panama.  He loves sports and surfing.


Theresa:  in your own words, what is the play PIPELINE about?

Dealdon:  The play is about the struggle of a single mother who works at a public high school.  And her son goes to a private school.  The struggle is between her trying to understand what happens to her son.  There was an incident and the repercussions of that incident with the family. 

Theresa:  Tell us about the part that youíre playing.

Dealdon:  My character is Dun.  Heís the security guard at the school.  He has a bit of a history with one of the characters.  He is sort of the good guy.  Heís trying to hold the pieces together, keeps the smile on everyoneís face.  He keeps the general morale high in the school.

Theresa:  are you from Houston?

Dealdon:  I was born in Tallahassee, Florida and I grew up in Houston, Texas.  I got my undergraduate in Tallahassee Florida A&M.  And graduate school at the University of Louisville. 


Theresa:  How did you end up in the Ensemble Theatre and getting this role?

Dealdon:  When I was an undergraduate at Florida A&M, I actually worked at the Ensemble Theatre as the technical theatre teacher for the Young Performers Program.  I knew about the theatre but I never performed with them.  I performed everywhere else all around the world, but I never performed in my own home town.  I was really interested in coming back to the Ensemble theatre and getting a chance to perform at home.

Theresa:  did you audition for this role?

Dealdon:  I did.  I went to the summer auditions, the cattle call, where they call all the actors who are interested in the roles for the season.  I live in Louisville, but I was in Houston at the time.  And I thought Iíd audition and see what would happen.  I actually came back from Louisville to do the show.


Theresa:  How did you become interested in becoming an actor?

Dealdon:  I was actually a business administration major.  I was going for my MBA.  I had a full scholarship, lost my scholarship and I was sitting at a theatre class one day just sitting there, not getting a grade or anything.  The professor asked if Iíd like to stand up and do a scene with the rest of the class.  I did it and after the scene, she said that was really good, would you like to audition for a scholarship?  Sounds awesome!  Thatís actually how I got started with theatre and acting.  From that point on, I switched from being a business major to a theatre major. 

Theresa:  who is the most influential in your career in theatre?

Dealdon:  One of the most influential teachers is a guy named Luther D. Wells (professor associate director of theatre at Florida A&M University).  Heís actually the president now of the National Black Theatres Association. 

He was the one who saw me perform and also, he was one of the judges for the scholarship.  He was the one who led me to the direction to go down that path.

Theresa:  who are your most favorite actors?

Dealdon:  thatís an interesting question.  Idris Elba is one of my favorite actors.  I really like his calmness, his demeanor, his coolness.  Of course, everybody loves Denzel Washington. 


Theresa:  what would you like to say to the Houston-theatre going audience? 

Dealdon:  I would like to say, come see the show, because itís relevant to the time that we live in.  The things that we live with every day especially educators.  So much of our community is children and people who teach those children and interact with those children on a daily basis.  And this play speaks directly to that struggle.  Itís those families and the people who interact with the problems those families have.


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

Dealdon:  I would like them to ask questions.  How can we do things better?  How can we do things differently?  And thatís kind of what theyíve been doing.  They let theatre start the conversation.  Itís been really enlightening to see the passion and the visceral responses from the audience when they see the show. 



PIPELINE starring (L-R) Tanner Ellis as Omari and Brianna Odo-Boms as Jasmine.  PIPELINE is showing from May 9 - June 2, 2019 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo credit:  David Bray.   For more information, click on





Interview with Tanner Ellis starring as

Omari in PIPELINE at the Ensemble Theatre


Tanner Ellis was born and raised in Houston and has been a working actor shining on stages and in front of the cameras since he was a child.  At age 7, he began his training attending the Young Performers Program at the Ensemble Theatre for several years.  His performances include The Wiz, Sala Cinderella, Alice and Kid Zero.  At age 11, he starred in the Ensembleís main stage production of Joe Turnerís Come and Gone.  He has performed at Main Street Theatre and Theatre Under the Stars.  He attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts with a concentration in Musical Theatre.  Ellis can be seen in a national Pepsi commercial that is renewed for another year.


I first met Mr. Ellis on March 31, 2018 when I interviewed him on the Howdy Philippines show episode # 87.  Hereís the YouTube link, at the 27-minute mark for the play Eighth Day of the Week presented at the Ensemble Theatre:


HOWDY PHILIPPINES Episode # 87 YouTube video



Theresa:  tell us about the part that youíre playing in PIPELINE.

Tanner:  I play the role of Omari Joseph.  He is the son of Nya.  The story is centered around him and his mother.  Omari came from a two-parent household and his parents ended up getting a divorce.  That was the breaking point for him and his relationship with his father.  You get to see how that plays out in the show.  Heís having a little trouble in school, trying to find himself, trying to fit in.  You know, make a name for himself. 

He has an incident at school.  I donít want to give anything away too much.  There might be some consequences.  Weíll see.


Theresa:  what are the challenges in playing this role?

Tanner:  Heís really in a dark place. 

Theresa:  we were talking about it earlier. Everything thatís happening today, just last night in the news, the STEM school shooting in Colorado.  Itís really horrible, the students are shooting at their school.  Itís almost become commonplace now.  Every night, something terrible happens.


Tanner:  You know, the source is, it starts at home.  Which it usually is, in todayís society: the school shootings, the bullying, the fighting, all of these starts somewhere. 

Iím a student right now at Texas Southern University.  (In preparing for this role) that helps that Iím a student.  Actually, for me personally, I relate to Omari.  Itís been me in points and times.  I definitely can relate to him being misunderstood.  Iím trying to tell my mother Nya what I need from her.  Just being misunderstood, not being heard all the time. 

Theresa:  how did you get this role?

Tanner:  I auditioned last summer.  Got a call back for it.  When I got the offer for the role, I was so excited. 

Theresa:  did you know about PIPELINE before you got the role?

Tanner:  I was familiar with this play from PBS.  Also, itís real popular right now.  I have some theatre friends who knew about the show when I told them about role.  Different theatres around the country have actually been doing it.


Theresa:  what inspired you to go into theatre?

Tanner:  I started theatre at age 7 right here at the Young Performers Program at the Ensemble Theatre up until my teenage years.  Then, I started interning here.  I attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.  After high school, I signed up with a talent agency.  I got to play the role of Kev in Marvelís Cloak and Dagger, thatís on Hulu.  Iíve done a couple of commercials.  Yeah, trying to do more TV work. 

One of my agents is here in Houston and I have one in New Orleans.  Film in Texas and filming and commercials is picking up in Texas a lot.  The Pepsi commercial was filmed right there in Austin, Texas.  But I love theatre because it keeps me grounded.  It really works your instrument. 


Theresa:  who are your most favorite actors?

Tanner:  Will Smith, Mike Epps, Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker.  Yeah, quite a few.

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

Tanner:  This show is for a multitude of generations.  But itís mainly geared towards students and teachers.  Iíve really been trying to get my friends out here to see the show.  Theyíve been coming to the previews.  They can really relate to the play, just by being a student in college or in high school.  Itís really geared to my age group and also for teachers as well. 


Theresa:  what would you like to say to the Houston-theatre going audience?

Tanner:  I definitely think that the Houston community should come out to the Ensemble Theatre to see PIPELINE because it touches so many issues that are relevant in todayís society.  And it really explains the correlation between the education system and the prison system.  Thatís definitely interesting to watch.  Thereís a big event that happens in the show, so everybody needs to see how it turns out. 



PIPELINE starring (L-R) Curtis Von as Xavier and Tanner Ellis as Omari.  PIPELINE is showing from May 9 - June 2, 2019 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo credit:  David Bray.  For more information, click on

PIPELINE starring (L-R) Curtis Von as Xavier and Tanner Ellis as Omari.  PIPELINE is showing from May 9 - June 2, 2019 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo credit:  David Bray.  For more information, click on



PIPELINE is showing from May 9 - June 2, 2019 at the Ensemble Theatre located at 3535 Main Street, Houston Texas 77002 USA.  Photo credit:  David Bray.  For more information, click on