Theatre’s annual spring fundraiser to be offered online from May 21-25; will feature most popular WBTT artists performing soul hits

SARASOTA, FL – For more than a decade, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe has offered the lively and music-filled fundraiser, the April Fools Fête, in the ballroom at Michael’s On East. This year, with social events shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organization will offer a high-energy, 75-minute recorded program – “An Evening with Sheldon Rhoden & Friends” – online from 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 21 through 10 p.m. on Monday, May 25.

Popular WBTT artist Sheldon Rhoden – who has been featured in WBTT productions such as “Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul,” “Soul Man,” “Motown ‘60s Revue,” “Dynamic Duets of the ‘70s” and “Soul Crooners” – will be joined by Ariel Blue, Michael Mendez, Raleigh Mosely II and Jai Shanae. The artists will sing a selection of soul classics, including hits like “Pride and Joy,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Let’s Get It On” and “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You.” 

The cost to access the program is $50/household – 100% of which is tax-deductible – and the proceeds will benefit WBTT’s education programs, including: the Stage of Discovery summer musical theatre program for students ages 13-18; Jazzlinks, which brings African American history to life at local high schools; and Rhythm & Tales, an in-theatre elementary education program.

While the April Fools Fête will be available throughout Memorial Day weekend for community members to enjoy at their convenience, WBTT and Michael’s On East have worked up a packaged picnic dinner for the launch of the virtual event on May 21. The menu includes country fried chicken, a jumbo lump meat crabcake, truffle mac & cheese, roasted rosemary potatoes, the famous Michael’s On East chopped salad, cornbread and apple crisp. The optional picnic meal must be ordered by 5 p.m. on May 19 and picked up between 3-5 p.m. on May 21; cost is $39.95/person. Call MOE associate Ann Marie Grew at (845) 863-4429 to order.

"While we are, of course, disappointed not to be able to hold this program in person, we are excited that we will still be able to connect with and spread cheer throughout the community while raising money to support our education programs," said WBTT's Executive Director Julie Leach. "It is also a pleasure to be able to support Michael’s On East by offering the picnic dinner option – it’s nice to think that we can all still be ‘together,’ enjoying delicious food and watching upbeat entertainment, on opening night!"

Major sponsors for the event include the Brunckhorst Family, Dona and Sam Scott, Marian Moss, The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and Lou and Rosemary Oberndorf.

To donate and receive an access code for the virtual program, go to

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. Its mission 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 or call 941-366-1505.