SARASOTA, FL – The world premiere show “Ruby” (which was originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 season but delayed due to COVID-19) is a musical retelling by WBTT founder/artistic director Nate Jacobs and his brother, Michael Jacobs, of the shocking killing of a White doctor in Live Oak, Florida, by a Black woman – Ruby McCollum – who was tried in the case and eventually committed to Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee, Florida.
In 1952, when the killing happened, Ruby and her husband, Sam, were quite prosperous for the time and place and well-respected in the community. It was one of their four children – the youngest, Loretta – Ruby McCollum later said was the product of a forced relationship with the shooting victim, Dr. C. Leroy Adams. She claimed the reason for the killing was because Adams refused to leave her alone.
But there is more than true crime to this story, which became so notorious that famed writer Zora Neale Hurston was sent by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the trial. In segregated Florida, where Black people were essentially disenfranchised, unable to serve on juries or hold political office, the history of White men taking sexual advantage of Black women without repercussions was long. Ruby’s testimony at trial was limited to exclude much of her defense, and the judge imposed a gag order on her as well, preventing any press interviews.
Ruby’s is a fascinating, powerful story, one that’s been touched upon in books and documentary films. Now, it (finally) takes the stage live in what promises to be an emotional musical drama. This powerful and haunting musical explores the secrets just beneath the surface of the idyllic, genteel exterior of a quaint Florida town.
“History is written by those who hold the power; unfortunately, that usually means there are important stories that are never told,” says Nate Jacobs. “Ruby McCollum is just one of the stories highlighting the racial injustice prevalent in the 1950s (and beyond). “I’m excited to be able to share her side of the story; having the opportunity to collaborate with my brother, Michael, is a dream come true.”
The book is by Michael Jacobs; music and lyrics are by Nate Jacobs, Michael Jacobs and Brennan Stylez; musical arrangements are by Brennan Stylez and Antonio Wimberly. Nate will direct. Aleah Vassell portrays Ruby McCollum; audiences will recognize numerous returning artists as well as some who are new to the WBTT stage.
The original music is inspired by jazz, gospel and blues, especially as heard in the 1950s era of the story. The majority of songs in the show are original; audiences will also hear the spiritual “Wade in the Water” and the hymn “Shall We Gather at the River.”
Show runs January 12 – February 27, 2022. Tickets are $45/adults, $20/students and active military (plus applicable ticket fees). Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit westcoastblacktheatre.org or call the Box Office at 941-366-1505.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates African American history and experience, engages a broad base of patrons and audiences, supports the development of a dynamic group of aspiring artists, and builds self-esteem in youth of color. For more information, visit westcoastblacktheatre.org.