The Ensemble Theatre under the night sky
The Ensemble Theatre

Recently, the Ensemble Theatre announced the addition of three new board members to join the long line of community change agents who have helped guide the iconic Houston institution to the greatness that it has achieved and continues to display.

The new board members are Melanie Lawson, Micheal Helm and Dr. Dorie Gilbert.


Ms. Melanie Lawson

Ms. Melanie Lawson is best known for her service as a television news anchor on ABC Channel 13 in Houston, TX. She is an extremely accomplished and well-known member of the Houston community; serving on multiple boards, including SHAPE Community Center, The Houston Ballet, the Rothko Chapel, Asia Society, Houston, and the Houston Museum of African American Culture. Lawson is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Houston chapter of the Links Incorporated, and the Houston Association of Black Journalists. She is a proud member of the legendary Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, founded by her parents, William and Audrey Lawson.


Mr. Micheal J. Helm

Mr. Micheal J. Helm has served as the Chief Customer & Strategy Officer for Martin Foods. Mr. Helm has established himself as a leader in the business world, best known for developing talent, managing large-scale projects and creating an environment of growth and profit. Mr. Helm formerly served as Board President for The Ensemble Theatre, he has served on several boards including Center For Houston’s Future, Children at Risk, DaCamera and The Salvation Army


Dr. Dorie J. Gilbert

Dorie J. Gilbert, Ph.D. is the Dean of the Marvin D. and June Samuel Brailsford College of Arts and Sciences at Prairie View A&M University. Before joining PVAMU in 2019, she spent 20 years as a professor and director of international programs at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin, where she now holds an emerita faculty position. Dr. Gilbert serves on the national board of the Council of Colleges of Arts & Sciences and is the founder of the Council of Historically Black Colleges of Arts & Sciences. Gilbert is an accomplished educator and administrative leader who has cultivated a career of service and academic excellence, evidenced by the student communities that she serves.

The Ensemble Theatre has a history and a legacy of being one of the leading cultural institutions in the City of Houston. Founded in 1976 by the late George W. Hawkins, The Ensemble Theatre is a professional theatre dedicated to the production of works portraying the African American experience, the oldest and largest professional African American theatre in the Southwest, and holds the distinction of being one of the nation’s largest African American theaters owning and operating its facility and producing in-house.

The Ensemble Theatre’s growth and success contributes to the quality of its Board of Directors and their collective dedication to ensuring that The Ensemble Theatre remains a valuable part of not only African American, but American history for generations to come.

“I have been a longtime supporter of the Ensemble because everything they do is top-notch quality,” Cynthia Neilsen said. “From their award-winning productions to their special events and the luminaries they bring on as board members, the Ensemble is class personified.”

Some of the most well known and most respected members of the Greater Houston community have served on The Ensemble Theatre’s Board of Directors over the years, including the late Mrs. Audrey H. Lawson, who (alongside her husband Reverend William A. Lawson) founded the historic Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and who is also credited with leading the financial campaign for The Ensemble Theatre to own its facility.

The Ensemble Theatre has included Gilbert, Helm and Lawson as new board members to facilitate continuing the institution’s tradition of high-quality leadership.

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Aswad WalkerAssociate Editor

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...