Popular WBTT artist Tarra Conner jones to kick off 2017-2018 series with ‘Here is Love’

SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is pleased to present the fifth year of its annual Young Artist Program, through which Troupe members are able to showcase their talents with one-night, one-person shows. The first Young Artist performance of the season, “Here is Love,” features popular WBTT artist Tarra Conner jones and takes place Sunday, October 15 and Monday, October 16 at 8:00 p.m. The original cabaret show shares Conner jones’ journey of love, heartache, laughter and survival through stories, jazz songs, and show tunes. 

Also being featured this year is Leon S. Pitts II, who is scheduled to perform on March 11 and 12. Young Artist Program 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 westcoastblacktheatre.org

Conner jones has performed for the last few years with WBTT. Her debut performance was in the 2015 production of Black Nativity; since then, she has appeared in shows including Cotton Club Cabaret, The Color Purple, How I Got Over, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Ma Rainey) and The Wiz (Evilene). She has previously appeared in The Color Purple (Sofia), The Wiz (Evilene), Dreamgirls (Effie), Shrek the Musical (Dragon, Mama Ogre/Bear), Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (Apollo Performer), and Once On This Island (Asaka) at other Florida theaters. The Florida native is a proud alumna of Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and Edward Waters College.

She has just recently returned from Shanghai, China, where she took a house gig at a retro jazz lounge, Heyday, and also performed at its sister venue, Shake. She was referred for the gig by WBTT founding member, Apphia Campbell, who has performed regularly and resided in Shanghai.

WBTT’s Young Artist Program, part of its education programming, was created to support, develop and showcase the talent of young, aspiring artists of color. The Young Artist Program offers company members the opportunity to develop and present an original production. All proceeds from the show are given to the presenting artist to be used for further artistic and professional development.

“My primary goal when I founded Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe was to find a platform where I could train and mentor young artists,” said WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs, who offers the young artists advice and assistance in developing and directing their presentations. “This program highlights our commitment to investing in the up-and-coming artists 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. Just last year, one of WBTT’s youngest performers, Christopher Eisenberg, was signed by Sony/ATV as part of pop group Next Town Down. WBTT dancer Derric Gobourne was named a YoungArts Finalist by the National YoungArts Foundation. And Naarai Jacobs – frequent WBTT performer and the daughter of Nate – has recently performed as a backup singer for international music star Logic at the MTV Video Music Awards, on “Ellen” and other prominent stages. 

“While WBTT artists receive significant training over the course of a season, the Young Artist Program gives artists who may have only experienced ensemble work the opportunity to move into the spotlight,” said WBTT executive director Julie Leach. “The participating artists are responsible for writing their own script, the song choices, costumes, choreography, promotions … the whole works. This is a rigorous effort but one that helps to equip our artists with the tools they need to take their careers to the next level.”

For more information or tickets to WBTT’s season of shows, go to westcoastblacktheatre.org or call the Box Office at (941) 366-1505.

About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:

The mission of the 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 westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366-1505.