As a fan of award-winning playwright August Wilson, I was excited to see one of his early plays, Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom. By doing so, I got my first glimpse of The West Coast Black Theater Troupe here in Sarasota.
In its 16th season, the troupe performs mostly in the round. Despite securing seats in the back row (a byproduct of my last-minute decision-making), we could see and hear every line and note. The thrust stage extends into the audience, allowing patrons to feel like part of the action.
The theater has a bar and snacks which are permitted inside. So with a glass of chardonnay in hand, I settled in for a moving performance. Ma Rainy, one of the first black women to make records, actually doesn’t enter the action until later in the play. Much of the tension occurs between her band members who recount various tales of racism in both the musical world and their personal lives. When Ma does take the stage, she is a force to be reckoned with. Despite her talent and bravado, however, she, too, is victim of jaw-dropping, systemized racism.
In addition to Ma Rainy, this season’s list of shows includes The Color Purple, A Motown Christmas, The Sam Cooke Story, and Driving Miss Daisy. The Troupe also offers a variety of community outreach programs.
Since its inception in 1999, “WCBT has mentored and inspired many African-American youth and young adults through participation in the company’s productions.” Many of the actors and singers from the company have gone on to perform on Broadway, in touring companies, and on television.
What fun to have such talent and diversity here in Sarasota.
The Sarasota Spectator
Our Sarasota Spectator is Betsy Miller, a retired high school teacher and college professor. Originally from Columbus, Betsy has fallen in love with the Gulf Coast of Florida, especially Sarasota. Blogging about the area has been a creative outlet for the writer, opening up an avenue of exploration. You may find the bon vivant enjoying happy hour at a tiki bar, shopping on historic Main Street, or seated at a concert or show at a local theater. Chances are you also might find her buried in a book on one of our beautiful beaches. Asked to give one word about her feelings for Sarasota, Betsy replied, “Smitten.”