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...
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 (Nov.2010 – Feb. 2015) as the third artistic director of Jubilee Theatre. William (Bill) Earl Ray was chosen as the current Artistic Director in Feb. 2016 to continue the artistic vision beginning with the 2016-2017 Season.
Jubilee continues to grow under the current skilled staff. Increased technical capabilities, including improved 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. 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.
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