Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe awarded $15,000 grant from National Endowment for the Arts

Sarasota company to use funding for production next season of Flyin’ West and related community outreach

WBTT Executive Director Julie Leach (left) and founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs. Contributed photo

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) has received a $15,000 Art Works award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to help underwrite its 2020 production of Flyin’ West, as well as to defray the costs of community outreach activities related to the play, the Troupe has announced.

On the morning of May 15, a news release notes, NEA Acting Chair Mary Anne Carter approved more than $80 million in grants — including the WBTT award — as part of the NEA’s second major funding announcement for the 2019 fiscal year. “Art Works is the NEA’s principal grant-making program,” the release adds. The agency received 1,592 Art Works applications for this round of grant making, and it will award 977 grants in this category, the release points out.

“These awards, reaching every corner of the United States, are a testament to the artistic richness and diversity in our country,” said Carter in the release. “Organizations such as Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe are giving people in their community the opportunity to learn, create, and be inspired.”

Flyin’ West, by Pearl Cleage, will close the 2019-2020 season, the release points out. It is a show that WBTT previously offered as a staged reading.

“In the 1890s, the lives of a small group of African-American women change after they leave the oppressive South and settle in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas,” the release continues. “Their hope and determination to survive in a harsh region are tested as they build new lives for themselves and their families,” the release notes.

Resident director Chuck Smith will return to Sarasota to direct this show, which will run June 3 to July 12, 2020.

WBTT will take a three-pronged approach to the community outreach activities, the release points out. First, it will offer two free performances of Flyin’ West for students and their families. Next, WBTT will hold a free WBTT Voicescommunity discussion about the play, the release continues. Third, WBTT will provide a hearing-assisted performance with either captioning or American Sign Language interpretation, the release adds.

“We are thrilled to receive this highly competitive award from the NEA,” said Julie Leach, WBTT’s executive director, in the release. “We had a wonderful response from the community to our staged reading of Flyin’ West and look forward to presenting the full production — with the NEA’s support — next summer.”

For more about WBTT, go to westcoastblacktheatre.org or call 366-1505.