Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe to presents WBTT Voices community forum on James Baldwin

Event planned for evening of Jan. 28

James Baldwin. Contributed photo

On Monday, Jan. 28, the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) will present a WBTT Voices program titled Who is James Baldwin? A Conversation About His Life and Ideas, the Troupe has announced.

The panel discussion — one of two events being offered in conjunction with the troupe’s production of Baldwin’s The Amen Corner (Jan. 23 to March 3) — will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The forum is free, but reservations must be made by calling the box office at 366-1505 or reserving a seat at westcoastblacktheatre.org, a news release says.

WBTT Voices programs take place at the Westcoast Black Theatre (1012 N. Orange Ave. in Sarasota), the release adds.

The Jan. 28 program will feature a panel discussion facilitated by Dr. Bernard Watson, the release notes. The participants will be WBTT founder/Artistic Director Nate Jacobs; Chuck Smith, who is directing The Amen Corner at WBTT; The Amen Corner cast member Dr. Lonnetta Gaines; Dr. Caryl Sheffield; and Dr. James B. Stewart, the release says.

“James Baldwin (1924-87) is an American novelist and social critic who is best known for his novels, such as If Beale Street Could Talk and Giovanni’s Room, and his essays, including the landmark The Fire Next Time, the release points out. “The Amen Corner is the first and one of only two plays he wrote,” it adds. That play was produced at Howard University in 1954 and then on Broadway in 1965, the release notes. “This touching tale is relative to playwright James Baldwin’s actual life story,” the release adds.

“At WBTT, our focus continues to be on the African-American experience and topics,” said WBTT Executive Director Julie Leach in the release. “James Baldwin was unafraid to take on issues of race, social inequality and sexuality in ways that were seen as radical at the time but are still highly relevant — while being more ‘acceptable’ for us to discuss openly — today.”

In addition to the WBTT Voices program, WBTT will present two free screenings of I Am Not Your Negro, a 2016 documentary based on Baldwin’s unfinished novel, Remember This House, which tells the story of race in modern America, the release continues. The film, which was named Best Documentary by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, includes clips from interviews and appearances by Baldwin, the release points out. Screenings will take place on Feb. 13 and 14 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the WBTT theater (1012 N. Orange Ave. in Sarasota). Reservations are required.

“The WBTT Voices program, a free service WBTT offers for the community, examines the people and issues that have shaped the African-American experience in our country,” the release explains. WBTT Voices was launched in 2014.