SARASOTA, FL – With losses in the hundreds of thousands related to show cancellations due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Sarasota’s “miracle theater” – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe – has been looking for a miracle. With the community-wide Giving Challenge approaching later this month, a miracle has appeared in the form of a $25,000 challenge match to bolster donations during the 24-hour online philanthropic event.
Funds raised through the Giving Challenge will help to get the organization through this period when no revenues are coming in. Additionally, they will provide resources to help WBTT shift its operations – with regard to keeping its education and mentorship efforts strong and available through virtual means – until a return to a traditional live format is possible and safe.
The donor group is made up of Board Chair Marian Moss, Executive Director Julie Leach and her husband, Brock, and longtime devoted supporters Sy and Shelley Goldblatt. While the Giving Challenge is boosted by a match from The Patterson Foundation for gifts from unique donors of between $25-$100, the $25,000 match applies to the first $25,000 in funds raised by WBTT, regardless of donor gift size and frequency.
The development team is also hard at work applying for local and federal COVID-19-related small business loans and grants, including the recently-announced National Endowment for the Arts grants for arts organizations that have received an NEA grant in the last four fiscal years (WBTT qualifies).
“While we understand much focus is on social services during this difficult time, it is our fervent hope that donors won’t overlook our community’s arts organizations – like WBTT – as the Giving Challenge plays out,” said Moss. “The arts are vital to our region’s quality of life, economy and tourist trade; additionally, they are a ‘virtual’ lifeline for people under the stay-at-home order. WBTT has proven its value and importance to our community; I’m thrilled to be able to support this incredible organization and hope our match will inspire others to support WBTT, too.”
Because of the coronavirus, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe officials were forced to cancel the remainder of WBTT’s 2019-2020 performance season several weeks into just the second mainstage show. The cancellation of these shows has the potential to cost the theatre as much as $400,000 in revenue – depending on the demand for refunds vs. ticket cost donations – and will likely put WBTT in the red for the season.
“While our prior fiscal health has put us in a less dire situation than it could be, our ability to raise funds from generous supporters is going to be critical to the long-term survival of our company,” said Julie Leach. “While we are working on securing available grant and loan funding, and working to rally support through the upcoming Giving Challenge, we are also trying to figure out how we can transition our operations in order to continue our impact and reach throughout the community. We are hoping the Giving Challenge – with the boost from our match – will help to get us through the worst of this crisis until the day when we can resume our traditional activities.”
The highly-anticipated WBTT original musical “Ruby” – which was scheduled to open on April 15 – has been slotted into the 2020-2021 mainstage season. The regular season shows, running from October 7, 2020 through June 6, 2021, will now be “Broadway in Black,” “Ruby,” “Pipeline” and “Smokey Joe’s Café.” The holiday show is “Black Nativity.”
Season subscribers will receive their 2020-2021 subscription packages in early June; single tickets will go on sale in September. WBTT is posting updates on its website: westcoastblacktheatre.org.
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. Its mission is to produce professional theater 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, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call 941-366-1505.