SARASOTA, FL – In October 2020, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe reemerged from behind closed curtains to present an open-air concert series, titled “Light Up the Night!” After just a few weeks onstage, though, the production was forced to close due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among cast and crew. Rising virus numbers caused WBTT to be cautious with regard to any further performances; however, with the holiday surge in COVID-19 receding, WBTT will take to its outdoor performance area once more, starting Friday, February 12 and running through Sunday, March 14.
“Light Up the Night!” features a live band led by Resident Music Director (and bass player) James “Jay” Dodge II, accompanying a variety of popular WBTT artists – including favorites like Raleigh Mosely, Henry Washington and more – as they perform soul hits of the 1970s. Selections will include “Superstition,” “Let’s Get It On,” “I Want You Back,” “Brick House,” “September” and many, many more. Joining Dodge in the band will be Todd Bellamy, piano, Brennan Stylez on auxiliary keys, Brad Foutch, guitar, and Etienne “EJ” Porter, drums.
“With the pandemic, it’s felt like every time we take one step forward, we’ve been forced to take four steps back. It breaks our hearts to see our beautiful, new theater building still sitting unused,” said Nate Jacobs, WBTT’s Founder/Artistic Director. “We are excited to begin performing again and I can guarantee patrons are going to leave our performing arts center feeling energized and happy.”
The artists will perform under the awning along the west side of the theater building, while patrons watch from the closest areas of the parking lot. Chairs within painted 6-foot circles – to ensure safe distancing – will accommodate one or two guests within each circle. Advance tickets will be sold in one-week increments to accommodate exchanges for inclement weather; there will be no door sales. There will be temperature checks at the gate and masks will be required at all times with no exceptions. No concessions will be sold and no food or drink will be allowed on-site, to ensure masks stay on for the duration of the evening.
In order to ensure consistent adherence to public health guidelines, WBTT has hired a COVID-19 safety officer. This staff member will monitor health and safety procedures for the foreseeable future.
“As much as our artists wanted to perform and we were ready to start generating some revenue again, the safety of our patrons, artists and staff must always be paramount,” said WBTT Executive Director Julie Leach. “With virus rates on a downward trend and rigid protocols in place, we are looking forward to entertaining the community while being responsible about public health.”
WBTT will also be offering its valentine to the community with the release of the video, “Aunt Rudele’s Family Reunion.” Recorded live onstage at WBTT in 2016, “Aunt Rudele” features Jacobs as he dons his dirty-blonde wig, glasses, dress and heels, portraying the relative who knows no boundaries – but always knows best. Further details to follow.
“Light Up the Night!” tickets are $40/person, with seating in socially distanced parties of one or two. Go to westcoastblacktheatre.org or call the Box Office at 941-366-1505.
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.