Nate Jacobs, Founder/Artistic Director

Nate Jacobs, Founder & Artistic Director

NATE JACOBS, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s Founder and Artistic Director, is a driving force in Florida’s theatre scene. A graduate of Florida A&M University, Nate founded Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in 1999. He has written, composed, directed and performed in many shows, as an actor, singer, dancer and comedian. He works extensively in the community training and mentoring youth in the performing arts.

As a result of his outstanding contributions to young people, the Sarasota County Branch NAACP Youth Council recognized Nate as one of its 2012 Men of Valor. In the spring of 2013, he was inducted into the Community Video Archives Hall of Fame for his significant contributions to the arts and education. In 2015, Nate was recognized as a Champion of Diversity for the arts during the Biz(941) and La Guia magazines’ Unity Awards Luncheon, and was honored with the prestigious Larry Leon Hamlin Producer Award during the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., “for his contributions to Black theatre specifically and American theatre in general.”

In 2017, Goodwill Manasota named him a Community Ambassador of the Year. In 2018, the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County honored Nate with the Arts Leadership Award for Artistic Achievement. In the summer of 2019, he brought Soul Man to the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C. — WBTT’s fourth appearance there.

Nate and the troupe marked the 20th anniversary of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in November 2019 with Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now, a musical retrospective of the company’s first two decades. In January 2020, following a capital campaign that raised more than $8.7 million for WBTT’s campus and endowment, the Gerri Aaron & the Aaron Family Foundation Theatre Building opened with its first show in the renovated theatre — the musical Caroline, or Change.

In the summer of 2020, Nate joined the Board of Directors of the Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center in Sarasota, a nonprofit organization known as a “campus of caring” because it is home to over 19 nonprofit health and human services agencies that help low income and at-risk adults, children and families.

Julie Leach, Executive Director

Julie Leach, Executive Director

Julie became Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s Executive Director in 2015 after serving as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for five years. She came to this position with extensive finance and management experience, having run a church religious education program, working as an audit manager for Deloitte in Dallas, Texas, and operating her own CPA and investment advising business. Julie earned her MBA in Finance and Statistics from the University of Chicago and is a retired Certified Public Accountant.

Since moving to Florida, Julie has focused her attention on volunteer leadership. She is a Past President and Treasurer at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota, where she has been a member with a deep involvement in its social justice work since 2000. Julie is also a Past President of the Board of Trustees, current President of the Endowment Board of Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton and a member of the Board of Directors of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County.

In 2017, Julie received the Heart of Gold Award from the Westcoast Center for Human Development. In January 2019, she received a Woman of Power award from the National Council of Jewish Women. Julie and her husband, Brock Leach, jointly received the 2019 Schoenbaum Humanitarian Award from The Salvation Army of Sarasota County.

WBTT Board of Trustees


Doris Johnson Doris Johnson, Chair, enjoyed a successful career in medical office administration management in Texas before retiring to Sarasota with her husband. She had myriad professional and volunteer board involvements, including serving as president of the State of Texas Medical Association Alliance, president of the Tarrant County AIDS Outreach Center as well as a member of the Harris Methodist Hospital Foundation Board, to name a few. She first became involved with WBTT when she attended a summer show in 2012 and then became a season subscriber; she has been a devoted supporter of WBTT ever since. Johnson served as the chair of WBTT's recent and very successful Heart & Soul capital campaign, which raised $8.7 million to renovate the organization's campus and buildings.

Marian Moss Marian Moss, Vice Chair, served as Chair of WBTT’s Board of Trustees from 2015 to 2020. She manages her family business, which has been in existence since 1898. Her grandfather started the business as a homebuilder in New York and her father followed suit, first in NY and NJ and then for more than 50 years in Sarasota. In the late 1970s, her father became a commercial real estate developer in the area and built and leased U.S. post offices in approximately 10 states. Marian joined the company in 1988 after getting a master’s degree and serving as the Assistant Dean of the College of Education at the University of New Orleans. Marian currently sits on the national board of the Association of U.S. Postal Lessors.

Cheryl Anderson Cheryl Anderson, Treasurer, provides CFO advisory services, accounting and technology to new startups and existing small businesses and not-for-profit entities. In December of 2014 she opened Executive Accounting Solutions of Sarasota, LLC where she is doing what she loves best, helping business owners organize and understand their financial position, just as she did for WBTT. Cheryl knows that with this understanding the sky’s the limit for success. Cheryl has a BS in Accounting and a MBA. She worked for two Fortune 500 companies where she dealt with small businesses across the country. Cheryl is also a former small business owner with multiple locations in several states and was a partner in a CPA firm in Sarasota.

Chris Caswell, Esq. Chris Caswell, JD, Secretary, has practiced law for over 30 years and is a member of the Florida and Georgia bar associations. He is also a Certified Financial Planner. Active in his profession and the community, Chris has served as the President of the Financial Planning Association Suncoast; on the Executive Council of The Florida Bar’s Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section; and a board member of the Economic Development Council of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. Chris was a founder and former chairman of the Florida West Coast International Affairs Commission. In his spare time, Chris enjoys acting engagements.


Ali Bahaj Ali Bahaj relocated from Tokyo, Japan to Sarasota in 2013 after 32 years of service with Caterpillar Inc. He held a variety of senior management positions at Caterpillar, including the role of Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Japan Ltd. Since moving to Sarasota, Ali has been actively engaged in our community. In addition to being a member of WBTT’s Board of Trustees, he currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Ringling College of Art and Design and was formerly the Chairman of the Van Wezel Foundation.

Kitty Cranor Kitty Cranor moved to Sarasota from Louisville, KY, where she served on several not-for-profit boards, including The Louisville Zoological Gardens, The Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation, Actor’s Theatre and The Kilgore Samaritan Counseling Center. She has a B.A. from Salem College and an M.B.A. from The Darden School at University of Virginia. Since moving to Sarasota, Kitty has been an active volunteer at Tidewell Hospice, The Out-of-Door Academy, All Faiths Food Bank and Healthy Start.

Michael Gardiner Michael Gardiner comes to the board with vast experience in marketing and sales in the travel and hospitality industries. He held executive positions in Diners Club International, Resorts Condominiums International, and Hertz Rent A Car, where he was the Executive Vice President of Marketing for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Michael is a strong advocate for WBTT and the Dream Center in Manatee County. An avid theater buff, Michael and his wife, Karen, divide their time between Los Angeles and Sarasota.

Sy Goldblatt Sy Goldblatt has an unusually varied background. Armed with a B.S. degree in physics and math, he spent 10 years working for the Department of Defense on the detection of signals from atomic bombs. For the next 10 years, he oversaw his own electronic and medical instrumentation company. Sy then started, and ran for 30 years, a money management company that managed investments for university endowments and foundations. Recently retired, Sy volunteers as a mentor for homeless veterans, and along with his wife Shelley, participates in numerous education programs and supports young performing artists.

Michele Hooper Michele Hooper is President and CEO of The Directors’ Council, which consults with major companies to improve the effectiveness of their corporate governance. With more than 30 years of corporate board experience, including over 25 years chairing audit committees of several global companies, Michele is a highly regarded governance expert and business leader. In 2017 she was selected as the National Association of Corporate Directors’ (NACD) Director of the Year. Michele currently serves on the corporate boards of directors of UnitedHealth Group (chair, Nominating and Governance) and United Airlines (chair, Audit Committee). She previously served on the boards of directors of PPG Industries, Target Corporation, Seagrams, Warner Music Group and AstraZeneca. Michele is Vice Chair of the Smithsonian National Board and is a board member of the Van Wezel Foundation. She retired from the boards of the NACD and the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ), where she was Chair of the CAQ Working Group focused on Deterring and Detecting Financial Reporting Fraud. Previously, Michele served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Voyager Expanded Learning and of Stadtlander Drug Company Inc. Prior to joining Stadtlander, she was Corporate Vice President, Caremark International Inc., and President of the International Business Group, responsible for the expansion of Caremark into Europe, Canada and Japan. Michele began her career at Baxter International; as President of Baxter Canada she led Canada’s largest health care and laboratory supplies company.

Penelope Kingman Penelope Kingman came to the U.S. from London at the time of the "British Invasion." She has lived all over this great country. She spent five years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, West Africa. She holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and worked for 15 years as a hospital administrator in Westchester County, New York. After retiring, she served a four-year term as a school board member in Butler, Pennsylvania. Penelope came to Sarasota in 2005. She loves sea turtles, and also her children, Sidney and Louise. She is on the board of Mote Marine Laboratory and, more recently, WBTT where she is proud to support this dynamic and growing theatre arts center.

Margie Nellum Lee Margie Nellum Lee is a retired District Manager and Area Director of the Social Security Administration. Margie was also the Founder and Executive Director of Daniel J. Nellum Youth Services, a child welfare agency in Chicago. In addition to being a Trustee, Margie serves as the co-chair of the WBTT Advisory Board. She is on the Van Wezel Foundation Board and Any Given Child Executive Council.

Dr. John E. Maupin Jr., DDS, MBA Dr. John E. Maupin Jr., DDS, MBA, is a retired healthcare executive, having most recently served as president of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta for 8 years, until his retirement in July 2014. His other executive leadership positions have included President of Meharry Medical College, Nashville; Chief Administrative Officer, Morehouse School of Medicine; and Deputy Commissioner for Medical Services, Baltimore City Health Department. Dr. Maupin was also a career dental officer in the United States Army Reserves, retiring in 1997 as Command Dental Surgeon for the 125th US Army Reserve Command. He currently serves on the board of directors of the VALIC Companies I & II, a mutual fund complex; and Encompass Health, Inc., a national in-patient rehabilitation and home-based healthcare management company. Dr. Maupin has a distinguished record as a healthcare expert and public policy advisor, having served on numerous national scientific advisory panels and federal and state public health councils. Actively engaged in community affairs, Dr. Maupin has previously served on the board of directors of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (Chairman); United Way of Middle Tennessee (Chairman); Development Authority of Fulton County, Atlanta, Georgia (Vice-Chairman); America’s Promise Alliance, Washington, DC; and the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.

Howard Millman Howard Millman has been involved in theater since the age of 17. Although a fine director and actor, he has distinguished himself in theatre management. Howard was the Managing Director of the Asolo Theatre from 1968-1980. He left Sarasota to become the Producing Artistic Director of the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York. In 1995 the Asolo was in a crisis and Howard agreed to return as the Producing Artistic Director. During his tenure, he helped to successfully balance the budget, turn the theater around financially, rebuild audiences and create a national reputation for excellence.

Dr. Randall C. Morgan, MD, MBA. Dr. Randall C. Morgan, MD, MBA., is a Sarasota-based orthopedic surgeon who also serves as the Executive Director of the W. Montague Cobb/National Medical Association Health Institute. A graduate of Grinnell College with a B.A. degree, and Howard University College of Medicine, he also completed a Residency in Orthopedic Surgery at Northwestern University and a Fellowship in Pediatric Orthopedics. Randall earned an MBA degree at the University of South Florida, received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Grinnell College and served as President of the National Medical Association 1996-97. He was elected to Gary, Indiana’s “Steel City Hall of Fame” in 2003. Currently, he serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor at two medical schools. Since the age of 11 Randall has sung publicly in cities around the U.S. as well as internationally. He has formed many bands, including, most recently, the Soul Sensations, who entertain local crowds in many venues. He has produced and performed in four major fundraisers for WBTT: Doo-Wop to Hip-Hop, The Second Time Around, Black or White, Makes My Music Right! and Put Your Hands Together He is also a member of the Gulf Coast Community Choir, which performs for enjoyment and to raise funds as a community service. He continues to practice consultative and non-surgical orthopedics in Sarasota and Bradenton.

Mona Rankin Mona Rankin moved to Sarasota in 2014. She spent 20 years in executive leadership roles with the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury, with her ultimate role as Chief of Staff. Her work history also includes higher education leadership positions at City University of New York and Florida International University. She is among the founders of the Harlem Renaissance Education Pipeline, a Cradle to Career Collective Impact Initiative in Harlem, NY. She is a past participant and presenter in Florida International University's Executive Leadership Enhancement Program. Until recently, she served on the Advisory Board of Literacy Suffolk, Long Island, NY.

Dona Scott Dona Scott moved to Longboat Key from Chicago, where she was actively engaged with multiple community causes. She was a board member of Providence St. Mel School, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (now known as The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab), and currently serves as a board member of After School Matters, one of the nation’s largest providers of after school programming for teenagers. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management at Dominican College in Orangeburg, NY.

Eva T. Slane Eva T. Slane started as an aspiring actress in New York City, but quickly became an Equity licensed theatrical agent in an agency with such prestigious clients as Helen Hayes, James Earl Jones, Lillian Gish, Martha Graham and Horton Foote. In 1960 she met and married Stephan Slane who was the founder and Artistic Producing Director of the North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) in Beverly, Mass. Eva retired as an agent and assisted Stephan in NSMT’s operations until they retired in 1983. After moving to Sarasota, Eva became a strong supporter of the arts and has been honored by several organizations for her efforts. She has served on the WBTT Board since its beginning.

Lois Watson Lois Watson has a Master of Science degree in Library Science from Purdue University and enjoyed a 30-year career in Philadelphia as a librarian and technical education specialist. With a strong commitment to volunteerism, Lois’s involvement includes membership in Links, Inc. and the Suncoast Chapter of the Society, Incorporated. In 1996, Lois was one of 16 members to charter the Manasota branch of ASALH, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The documentary Veterans of Color was initiated during her two-term presidency of Manasota ASALH and opened at the 2012 Sarasota Film Festival.


Marvin Albert

Andrew Economos

June Gordon

Mary Ann Robinson


Christine Jennings served as WBTT’s CEO from 2009-2014. Under her leadership, the Troupe became financially strong and was able to purchase a 2½-acre site for our own theatre. She has a varied background involving finance, politics and community service. Her 40-year career in banking culminated in a 14-year stint as the Founder, President, CEO and Chair of the Board for the highly successful Sarasota Bank. Since Christine moved to Sarasota in 1984, she has been in leadership positions on boards of a number of arts, civic and not-for-profit organizations. She currently serves on the New College Foundation Board of Directors and the Canandaigua National Trust Company of Florida Board of Directors. Christine is the former Chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party and has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Outstanding Volunteer for the National Society of Fundraising Executives, Sarasota County Arts Council’s Arts Management Award, and SCOPE’s Boundary Crosser Award, to name a few.

Jacquelyn “Jackie” Woods is a Certified Residential Real Estate Sales Specialist with RoseBay International Realty. She is a past board member of the Manasota Branch of ASALH, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. She is currently a board member of The Boxser Diversity Initiative and an active member of The Links, Inc.

Advisory Board

  • Steven Krause, Co-Chair
  • Margie Nellum Lee, Co-Chair
  • Hon. Dennis Archer
  • Lynne Bernfield
  • Dr. Francine Brown
  • Frank Brunckhorst
  • Michael Bush
  • Judy Cuppy
  • Kim Davis
  • Donnie Diamond
  • Donna Dooley
  • Jenni Engleman
  • Robert Gaglio
  • Gypsy Gallardo
  • Richard Gerrity
  • David Goldman, Esq.
  • Howard Harris
  • Charlie Huisking
  • Tomeika Hunter-Koski
  • Amb. Jeanette Hyde
  • Jerry Kaplan
  • J.P. Knaggs
  • Lynne Koy
  • Joyce Locklear
  • Kaveecia Moore
  • Hector Muniz
  • Andi Munzer
  • Vickie Oldham
  • Debbie Partridge
  • William Partridge, Esq.
  • Richard Perlman
  • Ann Hobson Pilot
  • Prentice Pilot
  • Lauri Pollack
  • David Shapiro, Esq.
  • Jeremy Shelby
  • Ken Shelin
  • Edna Sherrell
  • Barbara Shirley
  • Teresa Simmons
  • Marty Taffel
  • Sheila Weiss
  • Hon. Charles E. Williams
  • Victor Young
  • Barbara A. Zdravecky