Original ‘hip-hopera’ written and directed by, and starring, WBTT artist Joel P. E. King

SARASOTA, FL – This summer, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is pleased to present the touring production of Real Life, which is written and directed by – and, for the first time, will star in the lead role – occasional WBTT artist Joel P.E. King. The majority of the cast and the live band for the production are traveling to Sarasota from East St. Louis, Ill.; several WBTT artists will perform in the show.

Rent meets In the Heights in the transformational story Real Life, a two-act “hip-hopera,” with sizzling song and dance, that explores the attitudes of urban living. The main character, Ray, has a test of faith as he is forced to choose his morality over a sensationalized street nature that may lead to his demise. Recognizing the consequences and repercussions, the community intervenes to influence his choice, while struggling with the threats of crime and other dangers of their daily existence. Through the power of community, acts of faith and an enduring grandmother, Ray embraces redemption ... but at what cost?

Show runs June 6-16, with performances at 8 p.m. at the Westcoast Black Theatre (1646 10th Way, Sarasota). The performance on Sunday, June 10 will be followed by a talk-back with King.

The music and lyrics were written, and the production directed, by King, who has performed with WBTT in Knock Me a Kiss, The Color Purple and, more recently, The Sam Cooke Story. King was also a featured performer in the 2016 "Jazzlinks" program, a partnership of WBTT and the Jazz Club of Sarasota that has been bringing history lessons to life for area high schoolers for three years.

Sarasota audiences had the opportunity to enjoy a blocked staged reading of Real Life – presented under the auspices of WBTT’s New Playwright Series – in June 2016. Since that time, WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs has served as a mentor to King, helping to develop the production and offering counsel on the production and business side of the theatre. King also reports that the surveys completed by community members after the reading were invaluable in helping to shape the final product that local audiences will see in June.

There are some big names behind the production of Real Life: Associate Director is Ptosha Storey, best known for her role on popular TV show Empire; she has a film – Acrimony, by Tyler Perry – in theaters right now. Associate Producer is Andrea “Drea” Kelly, a choreographer, dancer and actress who is also the former wife of singer-songwriter R. Kelly and who has appeared in all three seasons of the VH1 series Hollywood Exes.

"We are so thrilled to welcome Joel back to Sarasota and provide the stage for the full-scale production of Real Life," said Jacobs. "My purpose in creating WBTT was to provide a place for young artists to receive mentorship and have access to a stage where they could hone their craft. It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with Joel and see him grow as an artist, producer and creator of original content. I believe audiences will be blown away by the power and polish of this production.”

Tickets are $29.50/adults, $15/students and active military (with valid ID). Call the Box Office at (941) 366-1505 or go to westcoastblacktheatre.org.

About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience, attract diverse audiences, while using its productions as a vehicle for supporting African-American artists and building the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366-1505.