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The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is pleased to announce that their next show, A Raisin in The Sun, features two actors who have captivated Sarasota audiences before. Alice Gatling, star of Ruined and cast member of the Troupe’s Jar the Floor, will play Lena Younger, mother to Walter Lee Younger, played by Asolo Conservatory graduate Will Little. The play will be directed by Jim Weaver, a fourth WBTT production for this New York City resident. Previous plays directed by Weaver for the Troupe were last season’s Cab Calloway, Fences by August Wilson and A Soldier’s Story. A Raisin in the Sun opens on Friday, January 27 and runs until Sunday, February 19. Evening performances are Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00 pm; Sunday matinees begin at 2:00 pm. Ticket cost is $28 and may be purchased online www.wbttsrq.org or by calling 941-366-1505.
“I am thrilled to be back at WBTT directing one of my all time favorite plays which also happens to be the first non-musical to be done in the new theater space,” remarked Weaver. “A Raisin in the Sun was an important piece when it was first done and it is still relevant today in a somewhat different way. At that time it was about the African-American experience. Today it has expanded beyond to other ethnic groups dealing with financial hardship and prejudice. We’ve put together an amazing cast of strong actors and we’re all very excited to share this story with the audience.”
In addition to Gatling and Little, the cast of Troupe members and other local actors include David Abolafia, Emmanuel Avraham, Dhakeria Cunningham, Bryson Gregory, Jaszy McAllister, Joshua Nwankwo, and James Pierre. Costumes were designed by Alice Bee, who worked on all the Troupe plays during the 2010-2011 season.
“WBTT is pleased to present this remarkable drama, a play that changed theater in America,” remarked Nate Jacobs, founder and artistic director of WBTT. “It broke barriers on two fronts. A Raisin in the Sun was the first Broadway play written and directed by African Americans. Secondly, it was also written by a woman. In presenting this classic American drama, we’re thrilled to have Alice and Will portraying the leads in such an important piece. Audiences can expect a gripping and heartfelt performance on the WBTT stage.”
The mission of WBTT is to produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience, attract diverse audiences, support and develop African-American artists, and build the self-esteem of African-American youth. Throughout the past decade, WBTT has produced many productions locally and around the state of Florida. The company has gained a reputation for high quality, thought-provoking and entertaining performances.
Since its inception, WBTT has mentored and inspired many African-American youth through participation in the company’s productions. Many of the aspiring professional artists trained in the WBTT performing arts program have gone on to work with national and regional companies such as The Black Theatre Troupe, Phoenix Arizona; The Cumberland County Playhouse, Crossville, Tennessee; Florida Studio Theatre and The Asolo Rep, Sarasota, Florida; Stage Door Theatre, Coral Springs, Florida; and Mad River Theatre, West Liberty, Ohio. The company has provided a springboard for many national careers. The two youngest Troupe members, 14-year-old Chris Eisenberg and 16-year-old Alyssa White have reached national acclaim; Chris making the top 48 on “America’s Got Talent” and Alyssa being selected to perform in the Harlem Apollo Theater’s Best of the Best show this past December.