Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) has announced its 2018-2019 season, with the theme “The Command Season.” In addition to four regular-season shows, which are included in the WBTT subscription, the schedule includes a summer offering and a special holiday show, both available outside of the subscription. Running from October 2018 through the end of April 2019, the regular season shows are Raisin (The Musical), Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul, The Amen Corner, and Love Sung in the Key of Aretha. The holiday show is Black Nativity, which will have a run of just four performances at the Sarasota Opera House. There will be a 2018 summer show, the family-friendly production Rockin’ Down Fairytale Lane, with original book and music by WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs.
“We are calling our nineteenth season ‘The Command Season’ because we are offering shows that are of the highest quality, with material that we feel we have mastery over,” said WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs. “I have fielded countless requests to bring the shows about Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin back; Raisin is the musical version of A Raisin in the Sun, which is one of our most-requested dramas; Black Nativity has been a crowd favorite since its debut in 2014; and we’re thrilled to welcome back renowned director Chuck Smith for The Amen Corner, which is the very first show with an all-black cast that I directed in 1994. Our fans are in for a special treat this year.”
“We are extremely excited about our 2018-2019 season,” added WBTT executive director Julie Leach. “Patrons will notice we have tightened up our season – this is in preparation for the long-awaited renovations to our theater building. Although we are certainly happy to have a permanent home on this campus after years of a nomadic existence, we are excited about performing Black Nativity at the Opera House and grateful to the Sarasota Opera for its hospitality during our holiday show.”
WBTT opens the subscription season with Raisin (The Musical). Raisin takes place in 1950s Southside Chicago and revolves around a working-class black family aspiring to a better life after the death of their father. Hope is sparked by the arrival of a $10,000 life insurance check. However, conflict ensues when mother and son want to spend the money in different ways. This was one of the first African American shows to appear on Broadway; it was nominated for nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Runs from October 3 – November 11, 2018.
Next up in the regular season lineup is Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul. After several years of requests from theater patrons, Sheldon Rhoden – one of WBTT’s most popular troupe members – will reprise the role of Marvin Gaye. This original show written by Nate Jacobs, featuring some of Gaye’s greatest hits, begins in the 1950s at the start of Gaye’s career with Motown and follows its twists and turns until his untimely death in the mid-1980s. A gifted, innovative and enduring talent, he blazed the trail for the continued evolution of popular black music from powerful R&B to sophisticated soul to an intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression. Come see why Rolling Stone declared Gaye one of America’s greatest entertainers. Runs November 28, 2018 – January 13, 2019.
In The Amen Corner, Sister Margaret Alexander has moved her Harlem congregation for years with a mixture of personal charisma and ferocious piety. But when Margaret’s estranged husband – a wayward jazz musician – comes home to die, she is in danger of losing both her standing in the church and the son she has tried to keep on the godly path. The Amen Corner is a story about faith and family, about the gulf between black men and black women and black fathers and black sons. This touching play is relative to playwright James Baldwin’s actual life story. WBTT resident director Chuck Smith returns to Sarasota to direct this show. Runs January 23 – March 3, 2019.
Another Nate Jacobs-penned original, Love Sung in the Key of Aretha, closes the season. Four women musically review their life experiences as told through the songs made famous by the legendary “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin. In this musical revue, WBTT celebrates Aretha’s masterful artistry, bigger-than-life talent, and remarkable understanding of human relationships. Even though the four women are in different stages of life, they are intertwined with each other as they deal with new love, lost love and the search for love. Come hear Aretha’s greatest hits, such as “Natural Woman,” “Think,” “Rock Steady” and many more. Runs March 20 – April 28, 2019.During the holiday season – back by popular demand but for a very limited engagement – WBTT presents Black Nativity, by Langston Hughes. This production is a celebration of the Nativity story with gospel, blues, spiritual, and Christmas music, paired with the poetry of Langston Hughes and the creativity of WBTT. Children and adults alike will be enthralled by this high-energy, inspiring show. Production will include students from WBTT’s Stage of Discovery youth program. Shows are December 12, 13, 19 and 20, 2018 at the Sarasota Opera House. A Motown Christmas is not included in the subscription series.
The 2018 summer show, the family-friendly production Rockin’ Down Fairytale Lane, runs July 25 – August 11. This show is also not included in the subscription series.
Current subscribers will be able to renew their subscriptions beginning in mid-April by calling the Box Office at 941.366.1505 (press “1”) or by visiting the website, westcoastblacktheatre.org, to download the subscription form and mail it in. New subscribers may begin purchasing subscriptions on June 4. Subscriptions will be processed in the order that they are received; priority will be given to donors and renewing subscribers. Individual show tickets will be available August 1, 2018.
Sheldon Rhoden portrays Marvin Gaye in the 2014 production of ‘Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul’
WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs performing in the 2016 production of ‘Black Nativity’
Photos by Don Daly Photo
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:
The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates the African-American experience, to attract diverse audiences, to support and develop African-American artists, and to build the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366-1505.