Performance with Passion and a Message.

 

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COMPANY HISTORY

 

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 special events.

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 Code.

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 experiments.

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.

 
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