Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is getting ready to kick off its 15th year as a performing Sarasota arts organization in a really big way! On Monday night, October 6th, beginning at 8:00 pm, WBTT will stage an evening of entertainment at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall that epitomizes who they are and what they do. The evening starts with a pre-show performed by some of the Troupe’s well-known artists. Following that is Sarasota’s first introduction to The Eve of Jackie, an original musical play about the life of Jackie Wilson, written and performed by an award-winning Broadway performer Chester Gregory.

Lead sponsors for the evening are Tervis, Sarasota Magazine, and Frank and Jaclyn Brunckhorst. Co-chairs are Audrey Coleman and Julie Leach, WBTT Board President. Tickets for this one-night only celebration range from $35 to $75. All are being sold through the Van Wezel box office. Contact them at 941-953-3368 or go online www.vanwezel.org.

“We have never done an event like this before,” explained Nate Jacobs, founding artistic director, “but to kick-off our 15 years of success warrants a community-wide celebration! Traditionally we open our season with a preseason party that is always sold out. This year, we chose a venue that could accommodate more of the community, making the Van Wezel a perfect location. Because of the community support that has made us so successful, we wanted as many people as possible to be a part of our celebration.”

The preshow performance will feature the Troupe performing a high-spirited, 60s medley. Troupe performers will include Emmanuel Avraham, Ariel Blue, Victoria Byrd, Chris Eisenberg, Naarai Jacobs, Nate Jacobs, Charles Manning, Michael Mendez, Leon Pitts II, Tsadok Porter, Sheldon Rhoden and Alyssa White. They will be accompanied by the WBTT band, directed by Jay Dodge. The band will also perform for The Eve of Jackie. Other cast members in The Eve of Jackie include Naarai Jacobs, Leon Pitts II and Tsadok Porter.

“The out-pouring of support for this event has been amazing,” continued Jacobs. “I guarantee a high-energy night with fantastic fun and entertainment. Come out and join us as we kick off this incredible season. In addition to the show, we will also have the opportunity to celebrate Christine Jennings for the help she has given us, as well as have the chance for a community-wide introduction to Richard Parison, our new Executive Director. We are anxious to have him experience the energy and support of the community. October 6th will be a night to remember.”


About WBTT: The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. (WBTT) 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.” Throughout the past decade, WBTT has produced many productions and has gained a reputation for high quality, thought-provoking and entertaining performances. Since its inception, WBTT has mentored and inspired many African-American youth. Many of the aspiring professional artists trained in the WBTT performing arts program have gone on to work with national and regional companies, including Apphia Campbell who most recently has been seen performing her one-woman show, Black is the Color of My Voice, in Shanghai and New York and Teresa Stanley who was a featured cast member on Broadway in The Color Purple andpresently stars in Rock of Ages. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at www.wbttsrq.org follow on Facebook, tweet on Twitter or call 941-366-1505.