Florida’s oldest surviving Black Theatre group was founded in 1971 on campus at the University of Miami by the late T.G. Cooper, who later became the chairman of the Theatre Department at Howard University in Washington, D.C., M Ensemble’s Mission was to promote African-American culture and experiences throughout the performing arts. A year later, leadership was assumed by Williams and Richardson taking the company to a new level.
A new location was secured for the company in Liberty City. Then home became what is now called the African Heritage Cultural Center, the Bakehouse Art Complex, and the Joseph Caleb Auditorium, as well as local schools and numerous festivals. During this time, the company toured schools and libraries at no cost.
In 1972 M Ensemble was selected to represent the southern region of the United States at the World Festival for Black Arts in Lagos, Nigeria., West Africa; co-founded the Southern Black Cultural Alliance compromised of 30 African-American theatre and other cultural organizations;pioneered the country’s first drama workshop for the blind and visually disabled children in 1977; and implemeted the country’s first drama program for youths in juvenile detention centers.
To its credit, M Ensemble also participated in the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem, N.C. in 1995 and 1997 with the production of Jackie Moms Mabley, Live receiving rave reviews from the Winston-Salem Press and national exposure in the New York Times and Jet Magazine. M Ensemble also co-founded the Diaspora Arts coalition in Miami-Dade County.
Today the company is listed as a major cultural arts institution by the Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Council. It exposes Miami-Dade inner-city youth to the fundamentals of live stage performances and provides opportunities for them to learn about the business of arts and entertainment. And, although success has been allusive at times, the results have been phenomenal. M Ensemble has definitely raised the level of awareness of the theatre industry in South Florida’s African-American community.