SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) has announced its 22nd anniversary 2021-2022 season, with the Maya Angelou-inspired theme, “And Still We Rise.” In addition to four regular-season offerings – including two one-act plays under the umbrella of its New Playwrights Series – WBTT will present a holiday show. Running from October 6, 2021 through May 29, 2022, the regular season shows are “Eubie!” “Ruby,” “Broadway in Black” and world-premiere one-act plays “From Birmingham to Broadway” and “Float Like a Butterfly.” The holiday show is “Joyful! Joyful!”
“We are thrilled to return to our theater – assuming that COVID-19 will continue to be on the decline – for the upcoming season and showcase the indomitable spirit of African Americans and our theater,” said WBTT Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. “We have built our season not only to present vibrant works that shine a spotlight on Black creators, artists and issues but also productions featuring smaller casts, to ensure artist safety and alignment with Equity requirements as we all try to find our way back to normalcy.”
Opening the season is “Eubie!” a toe-tapping revue of Eubie Blake songs that stormed Broadway in the 1970s and was nominated for three Tony Awards. Blake’s infectious style is evoked in over 20 wonderful songs, including the classic “I’m Just Wild about Harry.” With its sizzling score and energetic dance numbers, “Eubie!” is a crowd-pleasing salute to a Black Broadway pioneer. It’s also one of the first shows staged by WBTT in its 22-year history – back by popular demand! Jim Weaver will direct. Runs October 6 – November 21, 2021.
Originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 season and highly anticipated, the next production is “Ruby,” a world-premiere musical. It tells the story of the 1952 murder in Florida of a white doctor by a black woman, guaranteeing a conviction for the woman bold enough to commit such a shocking crime and bringing celebrated writer Zora Neale Hurston to town to cover the story for a northern newspaper. This powerful and haunting musical explores the secrets just beneath the surface of the idyllic, genteel exterior of a quaint Florida town. The book and lyrics are written by Michael Jacobs, Nate’s brother; Nate will direct. Runs January 12 – February 24, 2022.
Honoring the significant contributions of African Americans over the years on the “Great White Way” is “Broadway in Black.” Broadway musicals have charmed the world for decades; WBTT salutes that genre with an original revue by Nate Jacobs – who will direct – that was first presented in the summer of 2017. Sing along with your favorite songs from award-winning shows and breakthrough roles that helped launch the careers of such African-American artists as Melba Moore in “Purlie,” Ben Vereen in “Pippin,” Jennifer Holliday in “Dreamgirls,” and Nell Carter in “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” It’s Broadway, WBTT style! Jacobs will direct; resident choreographer Donald Frison will take the production to the next level with thrilling new choreography. Show runs March 9 – April 24, 2022.
This season, WBTT is also thrilled to present two world premiere one-act plays under the auspices of its New Playwrights Series. Tarra Conner jones has written and stars in an ode to Nell Carter, titled “From Birmingham to Broadway.” Nate Jacobs and his brother, Michael, have written a play about Muhammad Ali, titled “Float Like a Butterfly”; Earley Dean stars. These plays will be presented together from May 4-29, 2022.
During the holiday season, WBTT presents its Christmas card to the community, the world-premiere musical revue “Joyful! Joyful!” Enjoy high-spirited, uplifting songs of the season as only WBTT’s singers, dancers and musicians can perform them. A blend of new takes on traditional holiday tunes, gospel-infused classics and pop songs, the concert will include a twist on the carol “Joy to the World,” a version of “Carol of the Bells” that’s an homage to the O’Jays, and a lively gospel rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” to name a few. Some talented Stage of Discovery students will be featured; Jacobs will direct. Show runs December 1-30, 2021.
“As the only professional African-American theater in the region, we take our mission to promote and celebrate the African-American experience very seriously,” said WBTT Executive Director Julie Leach. “As part of the #SafeArtsSarasota group, and with a professional on staff to oversee Covid-19 protocols, we will endeavor to provide a safe, thought-provoking and entertaining season. We will continue to look for opportunities to provide live and streaming video options, so that all who wish can have access to our work.”
Ticket sales are scheduled to begin in the late summer. Call the Box Office at 941-366-1505 or visit 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. 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.