Usually found in its storefront space in North Miami, M Ensemble Company, the oldest African-American theater organization in Miami-Dade County at 30 years of age, has certainly been around. From its beginnings in a Liberty City warehouse to an eleven-year tenure at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center to a five-year stay at the Bakehouse Art Complex, the troupe has been singular in its mission of producing works by African-American playwrights and exposing local inner-city youth to the world of the theater.
M Ensemble Company is not moving its headquarters once again, but this week the group intends to take theater where it has never gone before: to a high school auditorium in Homestead. Next week they hope to engage audiences at the FIU Biscayne Bay Campus, which lacks consistent theatrical productions as well. "We wanted to collaborate in the areas where theater is not very accessible," says Shirley Richardson, the troupe's executive director and a sometime actress. "We wanted to spread our wings, make ourselves a little more visible."
The group will do that by slashing ticket prices and performing Shay Youngblood's Shakin' the Mess Outta Misery, the story of a young black woman raised during the Sixties by a diverse group of women who surround her after her mother's death. Veteran M Ensemble player Tara Reid portrays the 25-year-old lead character, who reminisces about the influential adults in her childhood, transporting the audience back in time. Nine women, seven of whom are new to the company, star in the play.
Mobile as M Ensemble may seem, Richardson assures the group is adamant about continuing to work from its North Miami home. As for presenting plays strictly by African-Americans, Richardson affirms that notion may change: "We're more interested in the African-American experience; we don't care who writes. If it has a powerful enough message, we will do it."