Initial offering of the season will feature Earley Dean in a tribute to the music of Teddy Pendergrass

SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is pleased to announce its fourth annual Young Artist Program, through which Troupe members are able to showcase their talents with one-night, one-person shows. The first show of this season, “Happy Birthday Jethro Jenkins,” features WBTT founding member Earley Dean and takes place Monday, October 31 at 7:30pm. Join Dean as he paints a picture of the life of Jethro Jenkins through comedy, drama, and the soul-stirring music of the incomparable Teddy Pendergrass.

Future showcases will feature Victoria Byrd (January 2, 2017) and Michael Mendez (March 20, 2017). All shows take place at the WBTT theater, located at 1646 10th Way in Sarasota. Tickets are $25 general admission; VIP tickets, which include reserved preferred seating, are $100. Call the box office at (941) 366-1505 or purchase tickets online at

Earley Dean has had feature roles in numerous WBTT productions, including: How I Got Over: A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Color Purple, Cotton Club Cabaret, Little Shop of Horrors and Purlie. He has traveled the U.S. and performed with various theatre companies, including the Virginia Repertory Theatre in Richmond, Va., Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, Tenn., and Intiman Theatre in Seattle, Wash. This is Dean’s first original production to be presented by WBTT.

The organization designed the Young Artist Program to support, develop and showcase the talent of young, aspiring African-American artists. The Young Artist Program offers company members the opportunity to develop and present an original production. Artists who are interested must submit a proposal, which is reviewed by the organization’s professional and volunteer leadership. Once a proposal is approved, the performer works with artistic director Nate Jacobs to advise and assist him or her with developing and directing their presentation. All proceeds from the show are given to the presenting artist to be used for further artistic and professional development.

“This is just one way that our organization furthers its mission of developing young artists,” Jacobs said. “We feel strongly about investing in the performers who work with us in order to further their performance and career opportunities.”

Since its inception, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe has mentored and inspired many African-American youth through participation in the company’s productions. Many of the aspiring professional artists trained in the organization’s performing arts program have gone on to work with regional and national companies. The company has provided a springboard for many national careers including Apphia Campbell and Teresa Stanley, a featured cast member on Broadway in The Color Purple and Rock of Ages. Two of the trouple's younger members, Christopher Eisenberg and Alyssa White, have achieved national acclaim: Christopher made it to the top 48 on “America’s Got Talent” and Alyssa was selected to perform in the Harlem Apollo Theater’s “Best of the Best” show in 2011. 

“What’s exciting about the Young Artist Program is that it gives artists who may have only experienced ensemble work the opportunity to move into the spotlight,” said WBTT executive director Julie Leach. “A one-person show is rigorous for any performer; after successfully executing a Young Artist performance, we expect our artists to be equipped with the tools they need to take their careers to the next level.”

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 and 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 or call (941) 366-1505.