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Sheldon Rhoden as Marvin Gaye in WBTT's 2014 production of Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul.

 

At a “hush-hush” event Monday evening for sponsors and potential sponsors, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe announced its upcoming 2018-19 “command season”—the latter a title artistic director Nate Jacobs bestowed on the line-up partly because it includes plays from earlier seasons brought back by popular demand.

Among those returning shows: Jacobs-created plays saluting Marvin Gaye, and Love Sung in the Key of Aretha, a nod to the career of Aretha Franklin. Both may undergo some revision and updating by Jacobs from the previous versions.

Black Nativity, a frequent holiday show offering by WBTT, will also return (although that is not part of the four-season subscription series). Black Nativity will take the stage Dec. 12, 13, 19 and 20 at the Sarasota Opera House, in order to accommodate ongoing renovations to the WBTT theater building.

Two other shows may be less familiar to WBTT audiences, although one of them, The Amen Corner, was actually the first show Jacobs presented in a production at The Players theater. The piece was written by James Baldwin, and a special “Voices” program about Baldwin will take place during its run.

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Artistic director Nate Jacobs in WBTT's 2016 production of Black Nativity.

 

The season opener is the musical Raisin, which Jacobs said he had wanted to produce years before but couldn’t afford. (The company has already produced the play from which the show was derived, Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.) Excerpts from that show and the other upcoming productions were performed by WBTT actors at the Monday event.

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Jacobs, executive director Julie Leach and board chair Marian Moss at the "Hush Hush" season announcement.

 

WBTT executive director Julie Leach also spoke about the theater’s fund-raising campaign and the nearly complete construction work on the company’s education building (which is very close to opening in the adjoining Binz Building); that campaign amount stands at $5.3 million, only $700,000 short of its $6 million goal.

Dates for the WBTT season are as follows: Raisin, Oct. 3-Nov. 11; Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul (starring its previous lead, Sheldon Rhoden, as Gaye), Nov. 28-Jan. 13; The Amen Corner, Jan. 23-March 3; and Love Sung in the Key of Aretha, March 20-April 28.

Current subscribers will be able to renew their subscriptions beginning in mid-April by calling 366-1505 (press “1”) or by visiting westcoastblacktheatre.org. New subscribers may purchase subscriptions beginning June 4, and individual show tickets go on sale Aug. 1.

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