Evening of entertainment to feature WBTT founders and most popular artists, RCA recording artists Next Town Down, and honors for dedicated supporters

SARASOTA, FL – On November 18, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is kicking off its 20th year as a renowned Sarasota arts organization in dramatic fashion, with Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now! WBTT’s 20th Anniversary Celebration. The high-energy event will offer sensational entertainment featuring WBTT founding members Apphia Campbell, Jnana Cooper, Henry Porter, II, Tsadok Porter and Teresa Stanley, plus WBTT’s most popular artists and the sizzling WBTT house band, led by Resident Music Director Jay Dodge. 

There will be special appearances by WBTT Founder/Artistic Director Nate Jacobs’ daughter, Naarai, who has enjoyed significant career success since moving to Los Angeles two years ago, and RCA Records recording artists Next Town Down, an up-and-coming R&B group that includes Christopher Eisenberg, who began working with Jacobs at the age of 8 and performed with WBTT for many years.

Other featured artists performing during the 20th Anniversary Celebration will include Ariel Blue, Michael Mendez, Leon S. Pitts II, and Sheldon Rhoden. Guests can expect to hear excerpts from many of WBTT’s original musicals, featuring songs by artists such as Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Harry Belafonte, Jackie Wilson, The Supremes and other audience favorites.

Being honored at the event with “Heart & Soul Philanthropy Awards” are dedicated supporters Michael and Karen Gardiner, and Dr. Randall and Karen Morgan. Co-chairs for the evening’s festivities are Carolyn Michel and Lois Watson.

The evening will also include updates on the organization’s Heart & Soul Capital Campaign and theater renovation, and a preview of an upcoming WEDU documentary about Jacobs and WBTT.

"It is difficult for me to express how it feels to be here after 20 years – some years without a theater of our own, some years on the brink of having to close the organization down – and be where we are today," said Jacobs. "We’ve enjoyed years of sold-out shows, we’re on the brink of closing our $8 million capital campaign, and about to open a newly-renovated, state-of-the-art theater building. I am so grateful to everyone who believed in me and my vision, and contributed in some way to our current success. We can’t wait to celebrate that success with everyone on November 18th!"

WBTT has raised significant community support so far including leading sponsorships from Ali & Gloria Bahaj, the Brunkhorst Family, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Andrew & Judith Economos, Shelley & Sy Goldblatt, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Sarasota Magazine, and Sam & Dona Scott.

"All of us at WBTT have been and continue to be humbled at the generosity and excitement of our donors, theater patrons and supporters throughout the community," said Leach. "Immense credit is due to our visionary board, our indomitable capital campaign fundraising committee, ardent supporters, and the numerous corporations and foundations that have made our growth and success possible. Special thanks to our hardworking staff and talented artists and musicians, who make working with this organization a truly special endeavor!"

Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now! WBTT’s 20th Anniversary Celebration takes place at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall (777 N. Tamiami Tr., Sarasota) on Monday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m. Show tickets are $22-$132 and are now available on the Van Wezel website at vanwezel.org/boxoffice. Numerous sponsorships of $1,000-$15,000 are also still available and include a pre-show reception, the show and an after-party featuring catering by Michael’s On East and a live band. A limited number of Gold Circle seats with after-party tickets are available for $200. Call Debra Flynt-Garrett 941-366-1505, ext. 106 for sponsorship information or Gold Circle tickets with after-party options.


About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is to produce professional theater 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, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call 941-366-1505.