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Season Opens With Tony Award Winner Ain't Misbehavin'

Published on Monday, 22 November 2010

For Immediate Release

November 22, 2010

Season Opens With Tony Award Winner Ain't Misbehavin'

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe will open its 2010-2011 season with the Tony-award winning musical "Ain't Misbehavin'." Opening night is Friday, December 17th and runs through Sunday, January 16th. Set in 1929 during the height of the Harlem Renaissance, this play features the music of Fats Waller, a jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer and comedic entertainer who toured and performed in the United Kingdom as well as extensively in the US.  The play opened on Broadway in 1978 and won many Tony awards including best musical, best featured actress in a musical, best choreography and best direction.

"We could not be more pleased to be opening our first season in our new home with this wonderful musical production," remarked Nate Jacobs, artistic director. "This was the second play done by the Troupe in our opening 1999 season so it's one that we hold very dear to our hearts. Our new production features remarkable talent with an accomplished director, a guest artist also serving as assistant choreographer and a musical director who worked with us in 1999 AND with the Broadway show. That combined with the talent of our Troupe members and we are expecting another huge hit."

Directing the show will be Harry Bryce, director, choreographer, writer and arts educator. This will be his fourth show with the Troupe, having directed Sophisticated Ladies in 2005, Dreamgirls in 2006 and The Hot Mikado in 2008. Bryce is an award-winning director and choreographer. He founded the Memphis Black Repertory Theatre where he served as their producing artistic director for five seasons, producing 21 productions that garnered him 17 theater awards. In 2000, Mr. Bryce was the recipient of the Carter G. Woodson Award of Merit for Lifetime Achievements in Performing Arts.

"Having moved to Sarasota last year, I am very excited to be working with Nate and WBTT again," commented Bryce. "I've directed Ain't Misbehavin' six or more times in various locations around the country and it's a show I really enjoy. It's a nostalgic piece that tells a slice of life story set in Harlem during the pinnacle of its renaissance. It's also a celebration of Fats Waller's at a time when African American artists of all disciplines were coming into their own and being recognized for their artistic contributions as poets, playwrights and jazz musicians. Ain't Misbehavin' is an important play as well as a very fun night in the theater."

Along with Bryce, will be LaTerry Butler as musical director. Butler has toured extensively, both nationally and internationally, with the Broadway Musical Ain't Misbehavin'.  Other show credits include The Wiz, Showboat, West Side Story, Dream Girls, Bubbling Brown Sugar, Purlie, Eubie, Five Guys Named Moe, All Night Strut, Crowns, and the New York world premier of Hi-Hat Hattie. Butler and his wife Tammy are Sarasota residents.

Donald Frison returns as the guest artist and assistant choreographer. Frison is here from Memphis and will also have a role in Five Guys Named Moe, later on in the season. Many might remember him from previous WBTT productions, including Sophisticated Ladies. Troupe members Leon Pitts, Whitney Johnson, Jnana (Wilson) Cherie and Ariel Blue round out this exciting and talented cast.

"We are already looking forward to opening night," Jacobs continued. "Having so much talent associated with our opening season in the new theater is awesome. We can't wait to welcome our audiences as they enjoy the talent that they have come to expect from Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe."

To find out more about WBTT or to reserve your tickets go online www.WBTTroupe.org or call 941-366-1505.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Gets Ready To Swing Into Harlem Nights 2

Published on Wednesday, 29 September 2010

For Immediate Release

September 29, 2010

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Gets Ready To Swing Into Harlem Nights 2

(SARASOTA)  The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) invites the public to swing and sway at their pre-season party, Harlem Nights 2, on Wednesday, November 10 or Thursday, November 11, 2010 at Michael's on East, 6:00 p.m. The event has been expanded to two nights because many people expressed disappointment last year that they could not get tickets. Attendees will have their choice of evenings, which will offer the same "by the bite" buffet, entertainment by WBTT cast members and silent and live auctions. Cost is $100 per person.

According to event co-chairs, Eleanor Merritt Darlington and Mary Ann Robinson, "This party kicks off the season of fun at WBTT. To our knowledge this is the first time any group has held an event twice. We wanted to come up with a way to spotlight the Troupe's talent and still keep the intimacy and energy that we are becoming known for at our performances. Limiting the seating and offering the event two nights in a row seemed like the perfect solution."

The public will enjoy good food and finger-snapping, toe-tapping entertainment by the talented Troupe. Last year was the first time WBTT held a large fund-raising event and it quickly sold out. Because of the run-away popularity of this event the first year, reservations will be filled on a first come, first served basis for the two nights. It is recommended that people make their reservations as soon as possible to be assured of their first choice of night. Committee members include Carol Poteat Buchanan, Audrey Coleman, Christine Jennings, Carolyn Michel, Debbie Partridge, Corene Richardson and event coordinator Janet Hunter.

For more information about Harlem Nights 2, or to place a reservation, contact event coordinator, Janet Hunter at 941-371-7698 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Summer Sizzler Of Soul Continues With Sistas In The Name Of Soul

Published on Monday, 09 August 2010

For Immediate Release

August 9, 2010

Summer Sizzler Of Soul Continues With Sistas In The Name Of Soul

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is pleased to announce that its second summer production, Sistas In the Name of Soul, will be opening on Thursday evening, August 19 and run through Sunday, August 22. Performances will be in the new WBTT theatre, behind the Binz building at 10th and Orange Avenue in Sarasota. The show will have five performances, three evenings Thursday thru Saturday at 8:00 pm and two matinees, Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $20 and are available online or by calling 941-366-1505.

"What a great kickoff this summer season has been to us," remarked Nate Jacobs, founding artist director. "We wanted to try out our new home with two musical revues that have been big hits in the past. Our July Motown 60s Revue sold out every seat at every performance. We are expecting no less from Sistas, which was a sellout hit two years ago as part of the 2008 season. All we can say is get your tickets now while they are still available. It's a very exciting time, more than any of us could have anticipated."

Sistas in the Name of Soul is a celebration of female artists who sang Rhythm and Blues and Soul music in the 70s. Hits by Freda Payne, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and The Pointer Sisters are among the lineup of songs that

will be performed. Favorites will include "Midnight Train to Georgia," "Respect," "Band of Gold" and WBTT's 2010-2011 theme "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now."

The cast includes the four Troupe members who performed the original piece in 2008. Tsadok Porter, Whitney Reshard, Nisi Weaver and Jnana Wilson are all well-known to fans of WBTT. Audience members will recognize Porter, Weaver and Wilson from among the women who participated in the wildly popular Motown last month.

"The talent and enthusiasm of the cast is infectious," Jacobs continued. "Sistas In the Name of Soul promises to be the same high energy production as the Motown 60s Revue. The audiences can expect more of the same fun that they have experienced before at WBTT. AND we have as much fun performing as the audience does dancing in their seats."

Sistas in the Name of Soul will be the final summer show for WBTT until they open for the season on Dec. 15. Subscriber tickets are available now and include four shows, Ain't Misbehavin' Dec. 15-Jan. 16; Marvin Gaye, The Prince of Soul Jan. 26-Feb. 20; Mahalia, Just As I Am Mar. 9-Apr. 3; and Hi De, Hi De Ho!, Cab Calloway Apr. 20-May 15. Subscriptions cost $65 for four shows, a savings of about 33%. Single seats will cost $25 each and will not be available until later this year. For more information, call the WBTT office at 941-366-1505.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Announces Winter Season

Published on Wednesday, 30 June 2010

For Immediate Release

June 30, 2010

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Announces Winter Season

SARASOTA . . . The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe announces their eleventh winter season of plays, all of which will be performed in their new home, 1012 North Orange Avenue, Sarasota (Behind the BINZ building at 10th Street and Orange). The number of plays has been expanded to four and the total number of performances has increased from 36 to 112. Season subscriptions can be purchased by calling 941.366.1595 or online at wbttroupe.org. Subscriptions can cost as low as $39 for four shows on preview nights to $65 for four regular-run performances. Single tickets will go on sale October 1, 2010, and will be $25 each.

Opening December 15, 2010 and running through January 16, 2011 is a revival of the Troupe's highly popular rendition of Ain't Misbehavin'. The outrageously comic and musical soul of 1930s Harlem lives on in this rollicking, swinging, finger-snapping revue that is still considered one of Broadway's best. The inimitable Thomas "Fats" Waller rose to international fame during the Golden Age of the Cotton Club, honky tonk dives along Lenox Avenue, rent parties, stride piano players and that jumpin' new beat, Swing. Although not quite a biography, Ain't Misbehavin' evokes the delightful humor and infectious energy of this American original as a versatile cast struts, strums and sings the songs he made famous.

The second play is a world premiere titled Marvin Gaye, "The Prince of Soul" - The Man and His Music, which will run January 26 to February 20, 2011. Written by Nate Jacobs, the Troupe's artistic director, this is an original musical celebrating the extraordinary life and music of singer/songwriter Marvin Gaye. The show begins in the 1950s at the start of Gaye's career with Motown and follows its twists and turns until his untimely death in the mid-80s. A gifted, innovative and enduring talent, Gaye blazed the trail for the continued evolution of popular black music from the powerful R&B to sophisticated soul to an intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression. Rolling Stone declared Gaye one of America's greatest entertainers.

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From March 9 to April 3, 2011, the Troupe presents the talented, local entertainer Sharon Scott in a play she also wrote, Mahalia, Just As I Am. The entertaining show tells the life of Mahalia Jackson, an African-American gospel singer, and features some of her greatest hits. With her powerful contralto voice, Mahalia became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was considered the first "Queen of Gospel Music." She recorded nearly 35 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen "golds"/million-sellers.

The final show will be another world premiere, Hi De, Hi De  Ho!, Cab Calloway. It is a one-person show starring Nate Jacobs, which will run April 20, 2011 – May 15, 2011. Local playwright Larry Parr and actor/singer Nate Jacobs pair up to present a portrait of the legendary fireball of talent, Cab Calloway. Audiences will laugh and cry, sing and sway with Nate as he portrays the charismatic, award-winning singer, bandleader, actor and inventor of the "moonwalk" (fifty years before Michael Jackson). Larry Parr's plays, Hi-Hat Hattie and My Castle's Rockin' have enthralled audiences in regional theaters throughout the country and this world premiere play with music promises to be as electrifying.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Announces New Home And Summer Season

Published on Wednesday, 23 June 2010

For Immediate Release

June 23, 2010

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Announces New Home And Summer Season

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) announces that it has signed a lease for its own home at 1012 North Orange Avenue, Sarasota (behind the BINZ building at 10th and Orange). The new location gives the Troupe a bigger space to perform in, and will also allow them to expand the season with more scheduled shows. This will be the first time in its 10-year history that WBTT has had a performance space that was solely dedicated to its needs.

"An opportunity presented itself and we took it," commented Christine Jennings, executive director of WBTT. "It's perfect; a great location that's easily accessible with ample parking. WBTT is in a growth mode so the timing could not be better. We are very excited."

The new location includes a fully air-conditioned 6,500 SF space for a black box theater, dressing rooms, rehearsal space, rest rooms and a lobby concession stand. Plans are to create a stage surrounded by ¾ tiered seating in the round.

"It's been a privilege working with the board of directors," commented property owner Jim Robison,  "as well as the staff of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe to create a venue that is deserving of the incredible, explosive talents of one of Florida's finest theatre groups. I am honored to be involved with such a dedicated group of artists."

Audiences can expect the same intimate and up close experience enjoyed at previous venues. With WBTT as the sole user of the space, the Troupe will be able to almost double the number of performances from four to seven a week. The new calendar will offer two preview nights before each show's opening night. A regular weekly schedule will include five evening performances Tuesday through Saturday and two weekend matinees.

"There is lots of work to be done before we open for the season," remarked Nate Jacobs, founder and artistic director, "but I feel like we're getting closer and closer to having the WBTT vision fulfilled. We'll perform two summer musical revues in the new location with a grand opening later this year."

The first performances in the new home are being called The Summer Sizzle of Soul. Because of last season's sold out success, The Motown 60s Revue will run July 22-25. Following that, August 19-22 features another favorite, Sistas in the Name of Soul. Each will have five performances. Tickets may be purchased by calling 941-366-1505.

"We had a tremendous 10th anniversary year," Jacobs continued, "and we've got lots of exciting plans for year 11 with our own theater to perform in. I have never been more enthused about WBTT's future."

BACKGROUND

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. (WBTT) was founded in December 1999, by local actor, singer, director and playwright Nate Jacobs. It is the first and only professional black theater company on Florida's West Coast.

The mission of WBTT is to "produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience, which attracts diverse audiences while using its productions as a vehicle for supporting African-American artists and building the self-esteem of African-American youth." Since its inception, WBTT has produced nearly 40 productions locally and around the state of Florida. The company has gained a reputation for high quality, thought-provoking and entertaining performances.

WBTT has mentored and inspired many African-American youth through participation in the company's productions. It has provided a platform for talented individuals who might not otherwise have had an opportunity to cultivate their interests and talents. The company has provided a springboard for many national careers including Apphia Campbell and Teresa Stanley featured cast member of The Color Purple and Dream Girls on Broadway and the national tour of Rock of Ages.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Presents "Jar The Floor" By Cheryl L. West

Published on Friday, 16 April 2010

For Immediate Release

April 16, 2010

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Presents "Jar The Floor" By Cheryl L. West

(SARASOTA)  The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) ends their 10th anniversary season with a production of the highly-acclaimed Jar The Floor, a combustible comedy-drama about four generations of African-American women from one family. The play presents a vivid portrait of the evolving interaction between mothers and daughters and touches on a number of profound subjects with sensitivity, seriousness, and a great deal of humor.

The four women plus the youngest daughter's friend, who is white, come together to celebrate the matriarch's 90th birthday. It turns into an occasion for venting about life through snide remarks and comic relief, rather than one of candles and cake.

According to the director Van Huff,  "Jar the Floor has been one of the most popular plays to be done in regional theaters during the last ten years. As a man directing this play, I felt like I was eavesdropping on the real discussions women have when men aren't around. The play communicates through the voices of women, but this peek into one family's life is relevant to everyone. Many of the issues discussed are universal, ranging from everyday conflicts to startling situations. The conversations are rich, emotional, truthful and at the same time, very funny."

The talented, all-female cast includes Tammy Elaine as the 90-year-old matriarch. Her daughter Lola is played by Paula Farlin, who has appeared in past WBTT productions, including A Raisin in the Sun.  Alice M. Gatling plays MayDee, the granddaughter. Audiences will recognize Alice from her recent performance in Ruined. The two youngest characters in the play are Vennie, the great granddaughter, performed by Jaszy McAllister and her friend Raisa, portrayed by Amanda Schlachter.

Jar the Floor has one preview performance on Wednesday, April 21st. Opening night is Friday, April 23, 2010, and runs through May 9th.  All shows are held at the Art Center Sarasota, 707 N. Tamiami Trail, next to the Municipal Auditorium.  The scheduled times are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 P.M. and Sunday matinees at 2:00 P.M.  The calendar can be found on the Troupe's website, www.wbttroupe.org. Individual tickets are $20 a piece and are available by calling the office at 941-366-1505.

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BACKGROUND

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. (WBTT) was founded in December 1999, by local actor, singer, director and playwright Nate Jacobs. It is the first and only professional black theater company on Florida's West Coast.

The mission of WBTT is to "produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience, which attracts diverse audiences while using its productions as a vehicle for supporting African-American artists and building the self-esteem of African-American youth."

Throughout the past decade, WBTT has produced more than 30 productions locally and around the state of Florida. The company has gained a reputation for high quality, thought-provoking and entertaining performances.

Since its inception, WBTT has mentored and inspired many African-American youth through participation in the company's productions. It has provided a platform for talented individuals who might not otherwise have had an opportunity to cultivate their interests and talents. The company has provided a springboard for many national careers including Apphia Campbell and Teresa Stanley, a featured cast member of The Color Purple and Dreamgirls on Broadway.

Theater Location

1646 10th Way
(Off Orange, N of 10th St)
Sarasota, FL 34236

Box Office Location

1343 Main Street, Ste 300B
Sarasota, FL 34236
941-366-1505
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