SARASOTA, FL – While local arts organization Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe – the only professional Black theatre on Florida’s Gulf Coast – continues on a large growth trajectory, one thing holding the theatre back is finding and funding enough trained production staff. In order to assist WBTT in meeting this challenge, Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation has awarded a grant of $150,000 to help WBTT mentor and train entry-level personnel critical to continuing the growth and success of the organization while contributing more skilled artistic production talent who would be available for WBTT’s own theatre operations as well as to the critical theatre arts sector in the wider community.
Of the total amount awarded, the final $50,000 has been put forth as a match that WBTT will use to inspire fundraising on behalf of this effort during its Fall Gala on November 11, 2023.
As WBTT leaders have concluded, hiring locally is especially difficult because of the significant barrier of affordable housing, while persistent financial and cultural barriers hinder BIPOC’s access to training and education programs in the arts.
“There are not enough trained arts production personnel in Sarasota and the surrounding area and, as a theatre whose mission is to celebrate African American history and the Black experience, we also strive to increase our number of skilled BIPOC arts personnel,” said Julie Leach, WBTT’s executive director. “We are incredibly grateful to Barancik Foundation for this generous support, which will enable us to maximize the use of our theater space, increase our education and outreach programming, and continue to grow our operations.”
WBTT’s theater has a main stage, The Donelly Theatre, and a blackbox space, the Howard J. Millman Blackbox Theatre. It also runs numerous education and outreach programs, including the (free) Stage of Discovery summer musical theatre camp, touring educational program Jazzlinks, and performances for elementary school students at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, among numerous other public performances, programs and special events. Additional professional production staff are needed to support these efforts and WBTT’s current team is overstretched.
In an effort to address the talent deficit, this year WBTT added part-time, inexperienced personnel (some right out of high-school, some recent college grads) for various roles throughout the season. The organization is training and mentoring them on-the-job, hoping to build capacity and sustainability. Next year, WBTT would like to make five of these developmental positions full-time so these team members can assist with planning and growth in the upcoming season; the grant from Barancik Foundation plus the funds WBTT raises to meet the match will go a long way in supporting this plan.
For more about WBTT, visit westcoastblacktheatre.org or call 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. Visit westcoastblacktheatre.org for more information.