WBTT honored Willis Construction’s recent start on the new Gerri Aaron and the Aaron Family Foundation Theatre May 14.
Although Willis Construction already started work on Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s new theater building earlier this month, WBTT had plenty to celebrate at its ceremonial groundbreaking May 14.
WBTT leaders, Heart & Soul donors, local dignitaries, community partners, Willis Construction employees and others involved with the construction project first gathered at the historic Binz Building — now the theater company’s Education and Outreach Building — for opening remarks by Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs, Executive Director Julie Leach and Board Chairwoman Marian Moss.
“God works through people, and I’m looking at the people he works through today,” Jacobs told the room of supporters.
Leach toasted to the late WBTT donor Gerri Aaron and told guests the story of approaching her with Jacobs to ask for the first $1,000,000 donation to get the capitol campaign started.
“We all know I’m going to give you this gift,” Leach recalls Aaron saying. “So how much do you want?”
Leach says the conversation ended with a celebratory 10 a.m. champagne toast.
After remarks, guests enjoyed a performance by Jacobs and WBTT artists Michael Mendez and Ariel Blue that ended in a standing ovation.
After, guests headed next door to the completely gutted theater for the ceremonial tossing of dirt (complete with hard hats and ribbon-topped shovels for all the most notable guests).
In January 2020, the theater will reopen as the Gerri Aaron and the Aaron Family Foundation Theatre Building and feature a larger stage, 200 theater seats and brand-new lighting and sound systems — all made possible through the $8 million Heart & Soul capital campaign for which more than $7.2 million has been raised so far.
“WBTT is always an exciting experience and connection that people crave,” Leach says. “It’s more than a theater, and it feels that way. It’s intimate and it’ll still feel that way with 200 seats.”