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.

The Founders

  • Theodore G. Cooper (deceased) was a five-times a threat. He was a producer, director, educator, writer, actor and founder of The M Ensemble Company. “T.G.”, as he preferred to be called, was a professor of Drama at Howard University for twenty years to chair the University drama department.
  • Patricia E. Williams, Co-founder, associate producer, general manager, and occasional stage manager of M Ensemble, is an active member of the Screen Actors Guild and Actor's Equity. She is also the director of the after school program at The YWCA of Greater Miami, where she supervises 18 schools and more than 100 staff members. Williams has performed on stage, television, and film. Her appearances include the M Ensemble productions; Black Spirit Ritual, Hansel and Gretel, and El Hall Malik Shabazz. She studied theatre in New York and New Jersey where she worked with off-Broadway and regional theaters. She earned a bachelor's in theater and journalism from Northwestern University.
  • Shirley Richardson, a native of Miami, is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the company. She has also directed and performed in many of the company's productions. Additionally, she is the Program Director at the Concept Health Systems Outpatient Treatment Center. Richardson attended Florida A&M University and studied theater. She graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater. She also has a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.
  • André L. Gainey, the Artistic Director of the company has performed and directed several of M Ensemble Company’s productions. André is an educator for Miami-Dade County Public teaching a theater arts program. Over the course of his acting career, André has appeared in principle roles at Miami-Dade College, also performing in productions in Orlando, FL, and at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival in Eatonville, FL. You may have seen André returning to work with AAPACT where he is a co-founder and has directed many of their productions. He has appeared on film in WLRN’s Production of The Next Generation of Black Leaders; in Cippola Productions’ Ape 29, Autopsy Turvy, Dr. X, The Harder They Fall and Nemesis.