- July 18, 2019
Shoulders were swaying and toes were tapping March 12 at the Education Center at Temple Beth Israel for the annual performance by the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.
The show was called “Nate Jacob’s Jukebox.” Jacob is the founder and artistic director of the troupe. Six members performed Motown favorites from the 1960s and '70s.
The performers brought the energy up with upbeat numbers like Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood,” and then slowed it down with ballads. Leon Pitts II had the audience swaying and swooning during his rendition of “When a Man Loves a Woman.”
“This is what gives me my relief from stress,” Pitts said. “Seeing everybody smile fills my cup. That’s what I do it for.”
The troupe’s performance is the most well-attended concert at the Education Center each year. Over 200 people were in the crowd; and when asked by WBTT Executive Director Julie Leach how many had already seen a performance, nearly every hand went up.
WBTT Board Member Sy Goldblatt has sponsored the event for 10 years. He also provides champagne and dessert for a reception following the show, where audience members get a chance to meet and mingle with the performers.
“That’s just a piece,” Goldblatt said of the concert, “'Dreamgirls' has 18 people on the stage.”
Goldblatt’s wife, Sheila, passed away a year and half ago. As a former social worker, she recognized the educational opportunities the troupe provided, and the couple quickly became supporters.
“We have a robust education program with a summer camp for students ages 13 to 18, a very intensive five-week program that’s free to students thanks to people like Sy,” Leach said. “There are 30 students every summer, but also the artists themselves, we mentor and train.”
Leach looked to one of the evening’s performers as an example of success. Maicy Powell started in the summer camp at 15 years old. By 18, she wrote and performed a one-woman show titled, “The Kid is Alright.” Now at 22, she’s a Howard University graduate and has returned to the WBTT stage as a professional.