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Our Mission is to create and produce theatrical works that give voice to the African-American experience.
The History of Jubilee Theatre
Founded by Rudy and Marian Eastman in Fort Worth, Texas on June 19, 1981, Jubilee Theatre is the original home of African-American theater in North Texas. Jubilee Theatre was incorporated in 1982 and received its 501(c)(3) status in May 1983.
After one season at 1801 East Vickery, the Board of Trustees, under the leadership of Darwin and Muriel Mendoza, decided to become what the local press affectionately called a “gypsy theatre”- performing on off days in local theaters or nightclubs, while only occasionally getting a chance at weekend runs. For the next five years, Jubilee Players would perform in lobbies, saloons, the former Caravan of Dreams, Stage West, and Pocket Sandwich Theater, just to name a few.
In November 1986, Jubilee staged its first production of the original musical Negroes in Space to sellout crowds at the Caravan of Dreams. Thanks to an Amon G. Carter Foundation Challenge Grant, Jubilee raised matching funds during that production for a permanent home for the troupe. In 1987, Jubilee Theatre opened its doors at 3114 East Rosedale, across from Texas Wesleyan University. This would be the first theatre Jubilee would call home.
In November of 1993, an active Board of Trustees successfully concluded a capital campaign resulting in a newly renovated theater in downtown Fort Worth’s Sundance Square at 506 Main Street. This goal was met with 300-plus individuals and several organizations from all sectors of the city participating.
In 1995, Jubilee Theatre came under the Actors Equity umbrella in an effort to bring professional talent to Jubilee’s stage. In 1998, arts patrons, Hardy and Betty Sanders gave a pledge to upgrade the quality of work done at Jubilee. This pledge gave Jubilee a chance to produce wonderful musicals such as Travelin’ Shoes, The Tempes, and Attitude Girlfriend, Attitude; and established Jubilee’s reputation of producing original musical works. From 1997 to 2000, a concentrated capital campaign helped to establish an administrative staff and add production capabilities.
During the early part of the 21st century, Jubilee saw unprecedented growth: winning awards and accolades for its artistic integrity, nearly doubling its budget, increasing its audience base to reach some 15,000 each season, launching an educational outreach program that has reached over 38,000 students in the FWISD, and solidifying itself as an artistic and community leader.
In 2004, Jubilee looked to undertake another expansion project and with overwhelming community support, the theatre was able to complete a $460,000 renovation project completely free of debt. This renovation project was concluded in January 2005 and included increasing the theatre’s capacity from 99 seats to 147; enlarging the usable stage space, as well as restroom and dressing room spaces; expanding the lighting system; and upgrading the lobby with ADA-compliant flooring and doors.
However, just as the renovation was being completed, the Jubilee family suffered a tremendous loss. On May 31, 2005, co-founder and artistic director Rudy Eastman passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. For 24 years, Rudy worked to bring forth the Jubilee Theatre that thrives today. His vehicles were many and varied, and always instructive and entertaining, and his vision never wavered as he was determined to help people understand the African-American experience through theatre.
While the Jubilee family grieved for Rudy, it has continued to keep his vision and theatre alive. Even though statistics on organizations surviving the loss of a founder are not encouraging, due to the strong community support and goodwill that Jubilee has developed over nearly three decades, the theatre not only carried on but continued to grow. The 2005-2006 Season saw a record average attendance of Jubilee performances, record contributed income, and continued critical acclaim including Best Production awards from the Fort Worth Weekly and the Dallas/Fort Worth Theatre Critics Forum.
Artistic director Ed Smith led the organization through a period of transition and announced his retirement at the end of the 2009-2010 Season. The Board of Trustees selected Tre Garrett in November 2010 as the third artistic director of Jubilee Theatre. Garrett (Nov.2010 - Feb.2015) brought energy, enthusiasm and a fresh vision for the artistic future and by the 2013-2014 Season, Jubilee Theatre saw an average attendance increase as well as a continued critical acclaim.
Jubilee Theatre appointed William (Bill) Earl Ray as the new Artistic Director in the spring of 2016 and the Theatre continued to develop under his leadership of a skilled staff of professionals.
Financially, over the past four years, Jubilee’s contributed income has grown 105 percent, alongside doubling the number season subscribers and greatly increasing single ticket revenue. Increased technical capabilities, including online tickets sales, new lighting technologies, and sound equipment, have all been added to enhance the overall theatre-going experience. With a strong financial base, growing audiences, a dedicated Board of Trustees and Staff, and a tradition of artistic integrity, Jubilee has maintained its status as a gem in the Fort Worth cultural and arts scene.
Jubilee appointed Benard Cummings as Interim Artistic director in September 2017. The record breaking “A Motown Christmas” which by far sold the most tickets in Jubilee’s history, “Detroit 67” and “It Ain’t Nothing But the Blues” were all under the leadership of Cummings. In addition, Cummings also selected the 2018 – 19 season to follow up the record breaking 17-18 season. The 2018-19 season was selected which includes 5 regional premieres and 1 musical revue. With a strong financial base, growing audiences, a dedicated Board of Trustees and Staff, and a tradition of artistic integrity, Jubilee has maintained its status as a gem in the Fort Worth cultural and arts scene.
On September 4, 2018, Jubilee’s Board of Directors announced the new incoming Artistic Director, D. Wambui Richardson. Richardson is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana and a proud member of the Drama League. Formerly residing in Baltimore, Mr. Richardson was a Freelance Director, Resident Teaching Artist for Baltimore Center Stage and the Executive Director of Academies for the National Academy Foundation School of Baltimore. With over 20 years’ experience as a Director, Playwright, Art’s Educator and Executive Leader, Mr. Richardson has worked with the following companies, Baltimore Center Stage, St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre, WordBridge Playwright’s Laboratory, Syracuse Stage, Abington Theatre (Off -Off Broadway), and Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre (Off Broadway). His awards include being a NAACP Michael Jackson Performing Arts Scholar, The Pearl Cleage Writer Award and numerous awards from the National Association of Speech and Dramatic Arts. Some of his directorial credits include, Sugar Mouth Sam Don’t Dance Here No More [Off Broadway], Les Liaisons Dangereuse [Syracuse Stage], F.E.M.A 1603, Zooman & the Sign, In the Blood, Every Tongue Confess, The Seagull, & Measure for Measu.
We hope you will learn more about Jubilee first-hand by visiting the theatre and joining in our celebration of A PROUD HISTORY AND A PROMISING FUTURE.