Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe cancels remainder of 2019-20 season

Organization makes adjustments to 2020-2021 season

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

In the face of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) leaders have canceled the remainder of the organization’s 2019-2020 performance season, they announced this week.

In addition to the final three weeks of Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, WBTT has cancelled what it said was its highly anticipated world premiere musical Ruby, along with the season’s closing production, Flyin’ West, a news release points out.

“The cancellation of these shows has the potential to cost the theatre as much as $400,000 in revenue and could potentially put WBTT in the red for the season,” the release adds.

Ruby will be slotted into the 2020-2021 season in place of the planned production of Eubie!, the release says.

The regular season shows, running from Oct. 7 through June 6, 2021, will be Broadway in Black, Ruby, Pipeline and Smokey Joe’s Café. The holiday show will be Black Nativity, the release notes.

WBTT already had postponed its annual spring fundraiser, the April Fools Fete, from March 30 to May 18; “this event benefits WBTT’s education programs,” the release explains. “The organization is still hoping to be able to hold it,” as well as start its Stage of Discovery musical theatre camp in June, as scheduled, the release adds. However, WBTT leaders “will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation to determine if these programs are possible.”

“While we are heartbroken to have to cancel the remainder of our season, we simply had no other options in the face of current realities,” said WBTT Executive Director Julie Leach in the release. “Our first priority must be to protect the health and safety of our patrons, artists and staff. This situation is more painful as we’re losing the majority of our season — our theater renovations in 2019 caused us to push the entirety of our production schedule to 2020. Our leadership is currently looking at ways to address the financial ramifications of this critical and significant lost revenue, but have managed to pay our casts and musicians some severance and to keep our staff and creative team employed and engaged in planning our future creative projects,” she added in the release.

WBTT Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs said in the release, “Although times are a little somber right now, we think of the words of Maya Angelou and say, ‘Still we rise.’ We look forward to bringing our exciting signature shows back to our stage soon, to help cheer up the community, once it’s safe to do so.”

“While WBTT continues to encourage supporters to consider donating the cost of their tickets to help the nonprofit performing arts organization through these difficult times, it is offering refunds for the canceled shows,” the release points out. The box office is closed for in-person transactions, but the phone line (941-366-1505) is staffed, the release notes. The staff asks for patience and requests that patrons unable to get through immediately leave voicemails, with staff promising to return calls in the order they are received. Emails also will be answered; they may be sent to boxoffice@westcoastblacktheatre.org.

Season subscribers will receive their 2020-2021 subscription packages in early May; single tickets will go on sale in August. WBTT is posting updates on its website: westcoastblacktheatre.org.