SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is pleased to reinvigorate its WBTT Voices program with a special offering, “Telling Our Stories in the Black Theatre,” on May 4. In conjunction with WBTT’s new production of Dominique Morisseau’s play, “Pipeline,” renowned journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault will facilitate a panel discussion via Zoom with Morisseau, WBTT Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs, and “Pipeline” director L. Peter Callender.
Topics will include how African American playwrights are telling their stories on Broadway and in regional theatre, and why Black cultural institutions are essential — especially in light of recent events such as the deaths of George Floyd and other Black Americans, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Morisseau will also talk about the influence of Detroit on her writing and how she developed the theme in Pipeline that explores the school-to-prison pipeline that affects so many young Black males.
Morisseau is the author of The Detroit Project (A Three-Play Cycle) which includes “Skeleton Crew,” “Paradise Blue” and “Detroit ’67.” Her other plays include “Sunset Baby,” “Blood at the Root” and “Follow Me To Nellie’s.” She is also the Tony-nominated book writer of the Broadway musical “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations.” Morisseau is an alumna of The Public Theater Emerging Writers Group, Women’s Project Lab and Lark Playwrights Workshop. She served as co-producer on the Showtime series, “Shameless.” She has won numerous awards and fellowships.
Hunter-Gault is an Emmy- and Peabody-award-winning journalist who has reported for the PBS NewsHour, NPR and CNN. A school desegregation pioneer (University of Georgia, 1961), she is the author of the books “In My Place,” “To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement” and “New News Out of Africa: Uncovering Africa’s Renaissance.”
Jacobs is a driving force in Florida’s theatre scene. A graduate of Florida A&M University, Nate founded Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in 1999. He has written, composed, directed and performed in many shows, as an actor, singer, dancer and comedian. He works extensively in the community training and mentoring youth in the performing arts.
Callender is artistic director of the African-American Shakespeare Company in San Francisco and artistic associate at NY Classical Theatre. His extensive acting credits include “Prelude to a Kiss” on Broadway as well as performances in the San Francisco Bay Area and at over 20 other regional theatres. Callender has been a resident actor/director at American Stage Company in St. Petersburg, Fla. for the past six years. He is thrilled to be making his directing debut at WBTT with “Pipeline.”
“At WBTT, our focus continues to be on the African-American experience and topics,” said WBTT executive director Julie Leach. “As our country continues to grapple with the highly-charged issue of racial inequality, and as WBTT presents Morisseau’s ‘Pipeline,’ a story that takes a hard look at the future prospects of the angry young Black son of the lead character, it’s more important than ever that Black stories have a place to be told, heard, and valued.”
The funding for this WBTT Voices program is provided by The Patterson Foundation in appreciation for the partnership with WBTT related to the recent collaborative project, “Abraham Lincoln & Frederick Douglass: A Walk to Respect.”
The WBTT Voices program, a free service WBTT offers for the community, examines the people and issues that have shaped the African-American experience in our country. WBTT Voices was launched in 2014.
This event takes place on Tuesday, May 4 at 6 p.m. Tickets are free but reservations are required; go to westcoastblacktheatre.org to register. A Zoom link will be provided in advance of the program.
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.