Westcoast Black Theatre 2023-2024

WBTT leaders (from l-r) Artistic Associate/Education Director Jim Weaver, Board Chair Doris Johnson, Founder/Artistic Director Nate Jacobs, Executive Director Julie Leach and Development Director Debra Flynt-Garrett during the Hush! Hush! Party Courtesy photo/WBTT

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe announces 2023-2024 season

October 11, 2023 – May 26, 2024
Season to feature ‘Once On This Island,’ ‘A Soldier’s Play,’ ‘Ruby,’ ‘Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul,’ and holiday show, ‘Joyful! Joyful!’

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s 24th season will be a celebration of all things that are “Simply the Best!” In its 2023-2024 theatre season, WBTT will offer fan favorites as well as new pieces leaders hope will become favorites.

“For our 2023-2024 season, we have adopted the theme ‘Simply the Best!’” said WBTT Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. “

As the only African American theatre on Florida’s west coast, we are proud to offer a unique and special cultural experience to our community. We rejoice in the opportunity to present plays and musicals this season that fall into our distinctive niche as well as shows with universal appeal.”

 “Once On This Island” – October 11-November 19, 2023 (Lyrics and book by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty.) Set on a Caribbean island, this Tony Award-winning musical tells the coming of age story of a little girl who is magically rescued from a disastrous storm. Based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy, this sweeping production showcases Caribbean rhythms and instruments, with music and lyrics by the Tony Award-winning musical team behind “Ragtime.” The show will move and exhilarate audiences, as the story of a peasant girl searching for love and her place in the world unfolds, dealing with complicated social issues of race, class and affairs of the heart. WBTT’s Education Director/Artistic Associate Jim Weaver will direct. Runs

“Joyful! Joyful!” November 29-December 30, 2023 During the holiday season, WBTT presents its Christmas card to the community; a high-spirited musical revue with a blend of new takes on traditional holiday tunes, gospel-infused classics and pop songs, including a twist on the carol “Joy to the World,” a version of “Carol of the Bells” (an homage to the O’Jays), and a lively gospel rendition of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”.  Some favorite WBTT performers, talented Stage of Discovery students, and some fresh new faces will put audiences in a festive holiday spirit. Jacobs will direct.

“A Soldier’s Play” January 18-February 18, 2024 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama set on a U.S. Army base in Louisiana in the segregation-era South of 1944 when two shots ring out. A Black sergeant is murdered. A series of interrogations triggers a gripping barrage of questions about sacrifice, service, and identity in America. One persistent investigator must race against his white leadership to unravel the crime before they unravel him. Broadway World calls the show, “A fascinating ‘whodunit’ mystery. Scorching and soul-searching …” WBTT and Goodman Theatre (Chicago, Ill.) resident director Chuck Smith returns to Sarasota to direct.

“Ruby” February 28-April 7, 2024 World-premiere musical. (Book by Nate Jacobs and Michael Jacobs, lyrics by Michael Jacobs, music by Nate Jacobs, Nehemiah Luckett, Brennan Stylez and Antonio Wimberly.) On August 3, 1952, the unthinkable happened: A Black woman murdered a white doctor in Live Oak, Fla., 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. Jacobs will direct.

“Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul” April 17-May 26, 2024  Sheldon Rhoden, one of Sarasota’s favorite WBTT troupe members, will reprise the title role for the fourth time. This not-to-be-missed original 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-1980s. A gifted, innovative and enduring talent, Gaye blazed the trail for the continued evolution of popular Black music, from powerful R&B and sophisticated soul to an intensely political and personal form of artistic self-expression. Come see why Rolling Stone declared Gaye one of America’s greatest entertainers. And why Sheldon receives great accolades whenever he sings one of Gaye’s songs. Jacobs will direct.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays-Sundays; all performances take place in WBTT’s Donelly Theatre (1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota).

Visit: westcoastblacktheatre.org for subscriptions and individual tickets