Unity Theatre Ensemble (formerly known as Kutana Players)
began as a graduate assistantship project by Ralph E. Greene
at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1971. With the
assistance of John L. Davenport (now a prominent stage and film
actor based in Chicago), Greene developed a talented nucleus
of twelve African-American theater majors (graduate and undergraduate)
through audition. This company of actors received academic practicum
credits to perform a season of productions and to tour the Midwest
during the traditional black history month.
The success of the project
led to the company's mounting a major production as a part of
the SIUC theater department's main stage series. The nucleus
of the company grew from twelve to a base of twenty actors and
technicians who built a reputation of excellence and professionalism.
In 1974, Greene was invited
by Miss Katherine Dunham to develop a theater training component
at the Performing Arts Training Center at Southern Illinois University
at Edwardsville, East St. Louis Center. Greene and the company
of actors and technicians made the move to East St. Louis.
In September, 1979, the company's
name was changed from Kutana Players to Unity Theatre
Ensemble which was consistent with the changing philosophy
and ideas of the artistic director and the direction of the company.
From September, 1974 to February,
1996 Unity Theatre Ensemble was the Resident Theatre Company
at the Katherine Dunham Center for the Performing Arts (KDCPA),
Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (SIUE), East St.
Louis Center, annually producing a season of professional entertainment,
presenting a touring repertoire to colleges, universities, and
civic events throughout the United States as well as providing
theater arts training to SIUE students, community youth and adults.
In February, 1996, Unity Theatre Ensemble moved to St. Louis
to become the resident theater company at the Greeley's 23rd
Street Theater for seven years. Following its closure, Unity
Theatre Ensemble was mobile again for three years performing
at neighborhood church gymnasiums and multipurpose auditoriums.
In 2006 UTE performed two seasons at the Regional Arts Commission
Studio in the Delmar Loop. In 2008, Unity Theatre Ensemble struck
gold when it found a new home at the newly renovated Ivory Theatre
in south St. Louis City, a spacious arena style theater space
that is open for use by theater companies and comuunity group
UTE is incorporated in the
state of Missouri as a non profit corporation and is recognized
as a 501c3 tax exempt organization under the Internal Revenue
During its history, the company
has distinguished itself as a repertory theater company of quality,
producing actors and technicians (in both professional and community
theaters) who provide leadership and examples of professionalism
throughout the U.S.A.
After thirty-nine years, the
company continues to experiment in order to find the most meaningful
messages possible for its audiences, and the most effective means
for the actors to communicate these messages. UTE's dramatic
adaptations of novels such as Terry McMillan's novel, Mama,
A Day Late and a Dollar Short, and Ugly Ways by Tina
McElroy Ansa; and the musicals Black Nativity, Sparkle,
Make A Joyful Noise, Hallelujah and musical creation
for children, Do You See What I See? examples of these
The Ensemble's production
history includes major American plays authored by African-American
writers and other writers. Audiences enthusiastically received
such favorites as Ted Shine's Contributions, The Night
of Baker's End, Sho is Hot in the Cotton Patch; James Baldwin's
The Amen Corner; Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin In The
Sun; Langston Hughes' Tambourines to Glory; Don Evans'
A Love Song for Miss Lydia; Phillip Hayes Dean's Sty
of the Blind Pig, Freeman; Ntozake Shange's For
Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbo Is
Enuf; Charles Fuller's A Soldier's Play; August Wilson's
Fences and a number of plays authored by third world and
other authors such as Derek Walcott's Ti-Jean and His Brothers;
and Jorge Diaz's Topography of a Nude, Lanie Robertson's
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill, Jack Stokes' The
Incredible Jungle Journey of Fenda Maria and Brad Gromelski's
delightful children's play, The Invention. The Ensemble
augments its production schedule with a number of original productions
compiled and written by Artistic Director, Ralph E. Greene. The
most outstanding among these productions are I Got The Music
In Me, I Can't Stop Now!, Motown Revue, Make a Joyful Noise,
Hallelujah, The Cotton Club Revue, Lady Day at the Boston Bistro,
Diversity, Feelin', Brown Sugar!, and Brother/Man.
Unity Theatre Ensemble is a theatre company for now, shaping
its messages with a critical eye towards developing real individuals
who have a commitment to life and how to live it...and to love
and how to prove it...and to humanity and how to best serve it.