Westcoast Black Theater Troupe board members at the groundbreaking ceremony

The Westcoast Black Theater Troupe is in the middle of a major makeover, and supporters got a sneak peek of the renovations on Tuesday at the theater's groundbreaking ceremony.

The renovations to the Troupe's theater building, located at 1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota, include a new stage with 200 seats and a 60-seat second stage, along with other changes, from lighting to the number of bathrooms. The groundbreaking ceremony began with opening remarks from members of the Troupe's board. Executive director Julie Leach thanked the donors responsible for the $7.2 million raised by the Heart & Soul Capital Campaign to cover a portion of the cost of the renovations.

Westcoast Black Theater Troupe founder Nate Jacobs performs Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher"

Leach also announced that reaching the campaign's $8 million goal is within sights, thanks to an additional $500,000 grant that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved in this year's state budget. The news came at the same time that the Troupe received a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to cover its 2020 production of Flyin' West.

During his remarks, founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs reflected on his journey with the theater before performing a powerful rendition of Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher." "I'm trying to contain myself," Jacobs said during his opening remarks. "I told them that they'd need to get me a stretcher today so I'd still be able to roll myself in."

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe expects that its new space will be fully operational by Sunday, Dec. 1, in time for rehearsals of its upcoming show, Caroline, or Change. The show is scheduled to debut at the new building on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. More information about the theater's lineup for next season can be found here.

Shovels at the groundbreaking ceremony 

Image: Giulia Heyward 

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