SARASOTA, FL – For more than a decade, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe has offered the lively and music-filled fundraiser, its April Fools Fête, to support its education programs. This year, with social events cautiously returning to the scene, WBTT moved the event outdoors to its theatre arts center for a socially-distanced, sold out live audience on April 5. WBTT also offered a livestream option so the rest of the community could join the party virtually while supporting the Troupe’s education programs.
In total, approximately $170,000 was raised in support of WBTT’s education programs, including: Stage of Discovery, the summer musical theatre intensive program for students ages 13-18; Jazzlinks, WBTT’s high school education program; Rhythm & Tales, an elementary education program; and the Young Artist Program. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, WBTT pivoted to virtual versions of these programs to continue its mission and ensure continued impact.
WBTT’s board chair, Doris Johnson, welcomed the live and livestream audience, with additional comments by event co-chairs Marian Moss and Asa Thomas. Mission moments were provided by Nate Jacobs, the founder and artistic director of WBTT, and Julie Leach, executive director. Touching testimonials were provided by student guests Maicy Powell, Samuel “Sammy” Waite, Matrick Thorpe and surprise guest Chistopher Eisenberg, who performed with WBTT for years and is now part of major-label act Next Town Down.
The impact of WBTT’s youth programs was shown through a high-energy, polished performance by Stage of Discovery students and alumni, featuring Janiah Gregory, Astrid McIntyre, Dave Pitts, Zion Thompson, Canela Vasquez and Waite.
To close the evening, professional artists Syreeta S. Banks, Ariel Blue, Michael Mendez, Raleigh Mosely II, Leon S. Pitts II and Sheldon Rhoden sang the jukebox hits of the 1960s, accompanied by WBTT’s live band: Music Director James “Jay” Dodge II on bass, Todd Bellamy on piano, Jamar Camp on auxiliary keys, Brad Foutch on guitar, and Michael Andrews on drums.
“We could not have been more excited to present this special event and showcase the success of our young artist and youth development programs,” said Jacobs. “From the feedback we’ve heard, we learned that the live patrons as well as those viewing from home felt the joy and energy of WBTT. We are so grateful to all who have supported the work we do in our community!”
Platinum sponsors for the April Fools Fête were the Brunckhorst Family, Shelley and Sy Goldblatt, and the Dona & Sam Scott Foundation.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe 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 about WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call 941-366-1505.