The Girls of Summer Set Design
M Ensemble Company (MEC) is the longest running African American professional theater company in the State of Florida. The company was formed in 1971 on the University of Miami campus under the direction of its founder, the late T.G. Cooper, who later became Chairman of the Theater Department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Its mission was to promote the African American culture and experiences through the performing arts. Members of the company were comprised of a diverse group of UM students and community residents who were interested in the theater and needed an outlet to consistently practice and showcase their craft. The company at that time used various community centers such as the Harry Belafonte Talcocy Center and Edison Community Center, both in Liberty City, for rehearsals. Prior to T. G. Cooper departure from the company, the first and one-time grant of $30,000 was awarded from a newly federal funded Model Cities agency. The grant allowed for the company to move to a more permanent location in the Liberty City community. A rented warehouse was converted into a 60-seat theater with office space in 1972 with Samuel Williams, Patricia E. Williams, and Shirley Richardson assuming leadership. A year later, the company was invited to be the first residential company at the newly built Model Cities Cultural Arts Center-renamed the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center – until 1989. Since then, the company has moved to various venues in Miami-Dade County before finding space for 14 years in North Miami where MEC provided the North Miami and neighboring communities with a four play season of quality African American productions garnering rave reviews and new patrons.
Due to a rise in rent, MEC moved out of the space in 2012, to the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in the Wynwood Arts District for a four year lease. That lease was amended in 2013 to make a move to an available office space in North Miami. During its 2014-15 Season MEC continued to face obstacles in finding a stable home where the company can become more financially stable and continue its programming. In 2017 MEC moved into its new home as the resident company at the newly built Sandrell Rivers Theater located at the Audrey M. Edmonson Transit Village in Liberty City. Since MEC move, the company have gained the support of a new diverse audience among our loyal patrons
Throughout the years, MEC has been involved in creating and implementing various innovative projects, such as pioneering the county’s first drama workshop for the blind and visually disabled children with funding from The Lighthouse for the Blind in 1977. The first drama program for the youth in the Juvenile Detention Center. M Ensemble also impacts the youth by providing early exposure to the arts for stimulating empathy, improving educational outcomes, building confidence, self-expression, creativity and discipline. M Ensemble will continue its Students On Stage Program for those youth between the ages of 5-17. This three month afterschool program runs from March- May 2024. Students will not only learn and participate in the artistic component of this program, students will also learn and engage in the technical aspects of theater as they prepare for their recital.
MEC has received many accolades and recognition for its accomplishments throughout the years. Some recent and notable accomplishments of M Ensemble include: New Times 2017 Best Play, for the production of Kings of Harlem and seven 2017 Carbonell Award nominations for three productions in M Ensemble's 2016-2017 Season.
M Ensemble will mount an exciting 2023-2024 Season with the opening of a Kwanzaa Celebration, following the premiere production Girls of the Summer , written and directed by Layon Gray and Bourbon at the Border, written by Pearl Cleage. These productions will be held at the Sandrell Rivers Theater in the heart of Liberty City where its' residents proclaim it as 'its' own Broadway Theater."
MEC is looking forward for your support to help sustain and expand its programming to a four play season, a touring company of new plays by local writers. The company is also seeking to expand its children Students on Stage after school program year round and increase the company's staff in grant writing, fundraising and administrative duties. This will help the company to thrive and sustain in greatness for a better community.