Tickets on sale for Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe's ‘Stage of Discovery' student show

Categories: Stories of Impact, BELONGING AND CULTURE: Cultural Development & the Arts,

For the ninth year, aspiring actors, dancers and singers ages 8-19 are taking the stage with Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe as part of its Stage of Discovery program. The five-week summer musical theater program is free for participants and culminates with three performances of "Make Room for Me!" on July 12-14.

The students are under the direction of WBTT Artistic Director Nate Jacobs and Education Director Jim Weaver. WBTT staff and guest instructors offer lessons in dance, acting, singing and improvisation, and provide behind-the-scenes experience with set and costume design.

This year Weaver added a new component: the 26 participants were given a chance to express their vision, writing about topics such as: "You think you know me?" "My truth," "The colors of love," and "Believe." Once the written pieces were submitted, Weaver selected music, featuring artists including Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, The Staple Singers, Luther Vandross, Simon & Garfunkel, and Whitney Houston.

"The addition of self-expression provides a holistic theater experience for our teen participants, helping them to express how they see the world, where they fit in, and their experiences in it thus far," said Weaver. "To paraphrase what some of our students have said, 'We're young, talented, and have a lot to say – if you give us the chance!"

The Stage of Discovery program is free thanks to foundation grants and individual donations. The founding sponsor is the Robert E. Dods Family Foundation (in honor of Michael & Karen Gardiner). Other sponsors include Carol Beeler (in memory of Tom Beeler); Community Foundation of Sarasota County; Kenneth and Sarah Goldblatt; Sy Goldblatt; Gulf Coast Community Foundation; Annette Orso Rickel Foundation; Lee and Lydia Rainer, Rainer's Grace Donor Fund; Dona and Sam Scott; and Pat Singletary.

Performances take place in The Donelly Theatre at WBTT (1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (preview show – tickets $17); Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. (tickets $27/adults, $17/active military and students age 25 and under). Visit or call the Box Office at 941-366-1505.

"It is our honor and pleasure to provide our young participants with a rigorous – and fun – formal theater experience; many of these students have never had access to this level of training previously," Jacobs said. "While WBTT is dedicated to producing the finest dramatic and musical theater, my dream – my true calling and purpose for founding this organization – has always been to help young, aspiring artists who may not otherwise have the opportunity to develop their talents and achieve success."