Improvements funded through 'Heart & Soul' campaign to begin with Binz building

SARASOTA, FL – The morning of Monday, July 10, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe will hold a ceremonial groundbreaking – called “Raise the Roof” – marking the beginning of the first phase of construction to the Binz building on the front of its campus. The Binz – which is currently unoccupied - will become the headquarters for WBTT's administrative offices and education and outreach programs. These improvements have been made possible because of funds raised through WBTT’s Heart & Soul capital campaign.

Plans for the Binz include a first-floor education wing; a 4,000-square-foot space that will mainly function as three multi-purpose education rooms but can also transform into an event space with a capacity of up to 200 dining guests for theatre or private functions; a second floor with weekday box office, conference room, and administrative offices; a library; and a 6,000-square-foot rooftop garden terrace event space for patrons and other community organizations. 

The first phase of enhancements also calls for a paved courtyard between the theatre and Binz buildings, with outdoor seating for pre-show mingling. There will be expanded parking, with better lighting to assure patron safety.

The Heart & Soul campaign, which has a goal of $6 million, will transform the organization's 2.5-acre, two-building campus at 10th Street and Orange Avenue into a cohesive, state-of-the-art theatre arts center, enable the organization to more fully develop its education program, and create an endowment fund for the future of the troupe. Architect for the project is C. Alan Anderson Architect, P.A.; Construction Management firm is Willis Smith Construction.

More than $3.9 million has been raised in support of the campaign. Area philanthropist Gerri Aaron has provided a leadership gift of $1 million to spearhead the fundraising effort and will be naming the theatre building. Board member Doris Johnson is the chair of the Campaign Cabinet and Gerri Aaron is the honorary chair; they are joined on the cabinet by an excited group of board members and other community leaders.

Once the Binz building is finished and sufficient funds have been raised, improvements will be made to the current theatre building; WBTT leadership is already considering options to minimize the disruption to its future production schedule. 

In the theatre building, plans are to add permanent seating (increased about 15% to around 200 seats), soundproof walls, improve sound and lighting features, and upgrade the restrooms and dressing rooms. The lobby will be expanded to 2,000-square-feet and will include a reception area, will-call office, and snack bar. Sprung floors suitable for dancers will be installed. A second stage for rehearsals, and student and young artist productions, will be established. A professional costume and prop shop, and storage areas, will be built.

"From my early days as a camp counselor, to an arts educator, and then a theatre director, my focus has been to nurture minority youth by promoting self-exploration and encouraging growth, both personally and professionally. These improvements will enable us to expand our efforts and serve more artists,” said WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs. “I am so grateful to our generous community for believing in and supporting our vision.”

"As we prepare to ‘Raise the Roof’ and begin the renovations to the Binz building, I must emphasize how extraordinary it is for our organization to have come this far," added WBTT executive director Julie Leach. "Our hardworking fundraising committee, ardent supporters, and numerous corporations and foundations have made this day possible. On behalf of everyone at WBTT, I would like to say ‘thank you!’"

For more information about WBTT’s Heart & Soul Capital Campaign or to make a gift, go to

About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:

The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates the African-American experience, to attract diverse audiences, to support and develop African-American artists, and to build the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at or call (941) 366-1505.