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Production by Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe to tell the story of Ruby McCollum, a Black woman accused of murdering a White doctor in 1950s Florida

SARASOTA, FL – After two painful delays due to COVID-19, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is thrilled to finally bring to the stage the world-premiere musical, “Ruby.” The show is a musical retelling of the true story of a shocking killing of a White doctor in Live Oak, Fla., and the Black woman, Ruby McCollum, who was accused of his murder.

“Ruby” is a homegrown affair: the book was written by WBTT Founder/Artistic Director Nate Jacobs and his brother, Michael Jacobs; lyrics by Michael Jacobs; music by Nate Jacobs, Brennan Stylez and Antonio Wimberly, with additional music by Nehemiah Luckett; directed by Nate Jacobs. “Ruby” was originally planned for the 2019–20 season and then, again, in the 2021–2022 season, but was delayed both times due to COVID-19.

In 1952, when the killing happened, Ruby and her husband, Sam, were quite prosperous for the time and place, due in part to gambling and liquor sales. Ruby was, in fact, described as the wealthiest Black woman in town and the couple was well respected in the community. It was one of their four children – the youngest, Loretta – that Ruby McCollum later said was the product of a forced relationship with the shooting victim, Dr. C. Leroy Adams.

She claimed that the reason for the killing was because Adams refused to leave her alone. But there is more than true crime to this story, which became so notorious that famed writer Zora Neale Hurston was sent by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the trial. In segregated Florida, where Black people were essentially disenfranchised, unable to serve on juries or hold political office, the history of White men taking sexual advantage of Black women without repercussions was long. Ruby’s testimony at trial was limited to exclude much of her defense, and the judge imposed a gag order on her as well, preventing any press interviews.

Ruby's is a fascinating, powerful story, one that’s been touched upon in books and documentary films. Now it finally takes the stage live in what promises to be an emotional musical drama.

“This is one of the biggest undertakings of developing a show for the theater ever – it has been a labor of love for our creative team,” said Nate Jacobs. “Ruby’s story shines a light on the deep racism and sexual violence faced by even the wealthiest and most respected Black woman in her community in the Jim Crow South. Through our show, I am hoping to help tell her story and make her voice heard, especially since she wasn’t allowed to speak in her own defense at the time.”

The cast includes: Catara Brae (Ruby McCollum), Maurice Alpharicio (Sam McCollum), Larry Alexander (Dr. Adams), Ashley Elizabeth Crowe (Zora Neale Hurston), Sieglinda Fox (Olivia), Benjamin Brandt (Sheriff Gary) and David Sitler (Judge Adams); members of the ensemble are: Matelyn Alicia, Lee Hollis Bussie, Shawn Cacciola, Jazzmin Carson, Nya Chambless, Eliza Engle, Sarah Haun, Ilexis Holmes, Sarah Middough, Shena Renee, Patric Robinson, Ned Averill Snell, and Rickey Tedesco.

There is live musical accompaniment, with orchestrations by Nehemiah Luckett and Dan Sander-Wells. Music director and main keys for the show is Sander-Wells. The band also includes Jamar Camp, auxiliary keys; Dan Haedicke, guitar; Isaac Mingus, bass; Henley Connor III, drums; and Richard Philbin, reeds.

Kevin White is production manager, Lizzi Nehls is production stage manager, KaCie Ley is assistant stage manager, Susan Haedicke is dramaturg, Jeffrey Weber is scenic designer, Patrick Russini is sound designer, Ethan Vail is lighting designer, Andrea Herrera is costume designer, Austin Jacobs is projection designer, Braxton Rae is intimacy director, and Annette Breazeale is properties master.

In addition to its show sponsors, the production is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.

The show runs from February 28 through April 7, 2024. Performances take place in WBTT’s Donelly Theatre (1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota). Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $50/adults, $20/students and active military (prices include all applicable ticket fees). For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call the Box Office at 941-366-1505.