Nate Jacobs, Founder/Artistic Director

Nate Jacobs, Founder & Artistic Director

Nate Jacobs is the founder and artistic director of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. The mission of the nonprofit organization, founded in 1999, is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates African American history and experience, engages a broad base of patrons and audiences, supports the development of a dynamic group of aspiring artists and builds self-esteem in youth of color. 

A graduate of Florida A&M University, Nate has written, composed, directed and performed in many shows, as an actor, singer, dancer and comedian. He trains and mentors youth in the performing arts through programs such as Stage of Discovery, WBTT’s summer musical theatre intensive program.

Nate and the troupe marked WBTT’s 20th anniversary in 2019 with a musical retrospective of the company’s first two decades. In January 2020, following the successful Heart & Soul capital campaign, WBTT staged its first show in its renovated theatre.

In March 2020, WBTT joined theatres around the world in an unscheduled intermission. Undaunted, Nate and his colleagues pivoted to online offerings. Live performances resumed in October 2020, outdoors on the theatre’s campus. The troupe returned to indoor shows in October 2021 for its 2021-2022 season.

In addition to performances and events on its campus on Orange Avenue in downtown Sarasota, under Nate’s artistic leadership WBTT reaches out to the community to present events at various locations, including a 2019 concert at Ed Smith Stadium, ‘70s Soul Party. Each January, WBTT presents Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: Celebrating His Legacy in Spoken Word and Song. The program has been presented for several years at Booker High School and, in 2021, at First United Methodist Church in downtown Sarasota.

Nate has received several awards and accolades through the years. The Sarasota County Branch NAACP Youth Council recognized Nate as one of its 2012 Men of Valor. In 2015, he was honored with the prestigious Larry Leon Hamlin Producer Award at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., “for his contributions to Black theatre specifically and American theatre in general.” Nate received the Arts Leadership Award for Artistic Achievement from the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County in 2018. In 2021 he received the Perfect Pitch Award from Key Chorale, which recognized him as a driving force in the arts and for his collaborations with other arts organizations, including American Roots: The Gospel Experience, a series of concert performances with WBTT performers and Key Chorale presented in three area churches in the fall of 2019.

Julie Leach, Executive Director

Julie Leach, Executive Director

Julie became Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s Executive Director in 2015 after serving as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for five years. She came to this position with extensive finance and management experience, having run a church religious education program, working as an audit manager for Deloitte in Dallas, Texas, and operating her own CPA and investment advising business. Julie earned her MBA in Finance and Statistics from the University of Chicago and is a retired Certified Public Accountant.

Since moving to Florida, Julie has focused her attention on volunteer leadership. She is a Past President and Treasurer at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota, where she has been a member with a deep involvement in its social justice work since 2000. Julie is also a Past President of the Board of Trustees, current President of the Endowment Board of Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton and a member of the Board of Directors of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County.

In January 2019, Julie received a Woman of Power award from the National Council of Jewish Women. Julie and her husband, Brock Leach, jointly received the 2019 Schoenbaum Humanitarian Award from The Salvation Army of Sarasota County.

WBTT Board of Trustees

OFFICERS

Doris Johnson Doris Johnson, Chair, enjoyed a successful career in medical office administration management in Texas before retiring to Sarasota with her husband. She had myriad professional and volunteer board involvements, including serving as president of the State of Texas Medical Association Alliance, president of the Tarrant County AIDS Outreach Center as well as a member of the Harris Methodist Hospital Foundation Board, to name a few. She first became involved with WBTT when she attended a summer show in 2012 and then became a season subscriber; she has been a devoted supporter of WBTT ever since. Johnson served as the chair of WBTT's recent and very successful Heart & Soul capital campaign, which raised $8.7 million to renovate the organization's campus and buildings.

Cheryl Anderson Cheryl Anderson, Treasurer, provides CFO advisory services, accounting and technology to new startups and existing small businesses and not-for-profit entities. In December of 2014 she opened Executive Accounting Solutions of Sarasota, LLC where she is doing what she loves best, helping business owners organize and understand their financial position, just as she did for WBTT. Cheryl knows that with this understanding the sky’s the limit for success. Cheryl has a BS in Accounting and a MBA. She worked for two Fortune 500 companies where she dealt with small businesses across the country. Cheryl is also a former small business owner with multiple locations in several states and was a partner in a CPA firm in Sarasota.

Marian Moss Marian Moss, Vice Chair, served as Chair of WBTT’s Board of Trustees from 2015 to 2020. She manages her family business, which has been in existence since 1898. Her grandfather started the business as a homebuilder in New York and her father followed suit, first in NY and NJ and then for more than 50 years in Sarasota. In the late 1970s, her father became a commercial real estate developer in the area and built and leased U.S. post offices in approximately 10 states. Marian joined the company in 1988 after getting a master’s degree and serving as the Assistant Dean of the College of Education at the University of New Orleans. Marian currently sits on the national board of the Association of U.S. Postal Lessors.

Chris Caswell, Esq. Chris Caswell, JD, Secretary, has practiced law for over 30 years and is a member of the Florida and Georgia bar associations. He is also a Certified Financial Planner. Active in his profession and the community, Chris has served as the President of the Financial Planning Association Suncoast; on the Executive Council of The Florida Bar’s Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section; and a board member of the Economic Development Council of the Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. Chris was a founder and former chairman of the Florida West Coast International Affairs Commission. In his spare time, Chris enjoys acting engagements.

TRUSTEES

Ali Bahaj Ali Bahaj relocated from Tokyo, Japan to Sarasota in 2013 after 32 years of service with Caterpillar Inc. He held a variety of senior management positions at Caterpillar, including the role of Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Japan Ltd. Since moving to Sarasota, Ali has been actively engaged in our community. In addition to being a member of WBTT’s Board of Trustees, he currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Ringling College of Art and Design and was formerly the Chairman of the Van Wezel Foundation.

Nancy Flanagan Nancy Flanagan moved to Sarasota in 1999 from Los Altos, California. She has a Master of Science degree in Instructional Media from the Ohio State University and had a first career as a teacher in the Chicago suburbs. Following a shift in focus to corporate training in the high tech industry in the Silicon Valley, Nancy worked for tech leaders Hewlett-Packard and Silicon Graphics, Inc before starting her own management and team development consulting practice in 1995. In that capacity she designed, developed, and facilitated executive, management, and team development training programs for global companies. Her clients included Cisco Systems, Google, Network Consultants Inc, Hewlett-Packard, Novell, SGI, E-Trade, and Netscape. Nancy is a former Board Chair of non-profits Alliance for Community Care and Avenues to Mental Health in San Jose, California, and the Child Protection Center and the Pastoral Advisory Council of the Church of St. Patrick in Sarasota. Nancy is currently a weekly volunteer for Meals on Wheels Sarasota in addition to being a lector and council member at the Church of St. Patrick. She started following WBTT in 2004 after seeing a production at the Sarasota Art Center. From there, she was hooked!

Sy Goldblatt Sy Goldblatt has an unusually varied background. Armed with a B.S. degree in physics and math, he spent 10 years working for the Department of Defense on the detection of signals from atomic bombs. For the next 10 years, he oversaw his own electronic and medical instrumentation company. Sy then started, and ran for 30 years, a money management company that managed investments for university endowments and foundations. Recently retired, Sy volunteers as a mentor for homeless veterans, and along with his wife Shelley, participates in numerous education programs and supports young performing artists.

Penelope Kingman Penelope Kingman came to the U.S. from London at the time of the "British Invasion." She has lived all over this great country. She spent five years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, West Africa. She holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois, Chicago, and worked for 15 years as a hospital administrator in Westchester County, New York. After retiring, she served a four-year term as a school board member in Butler, Pennsylvania. Penelope came to Sarasota in 2005. She loves sea turtles, and also her children, Sidney and Louise. She is on the board of Mote Marine Laboratory and, more recently, WBTT where she is proud to support this dynamic and growing theatre arts center.

Howard Millman Howard Millman has been involved in theater since the age of 17. Although a fine director and actor, he has distinguished himself in theatre management. Howard was the Managing Director of the Asolo Theatre from 1968-1980. He left Sarasota to become the Producing Artistic Director of the Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, New York. In 1995 the Asolo was in a crisis and Howard agreed to return as the Producing Artistic Director. During his tenure, he helped to successfully balance the budget, turn the theater around financially, rebuild audiences and create a national reputation for excellence.

Kim Parris is the President and Founder of Parris Associates, Inc., an independent consulting firm specializing in financial management and human resources consulting. The company was formed in 1998 and provides practical, effective solutions incorporating “best practices” industry data to clients. Parris Associates, Inc. has benefited non-profits and Fortune 500 companies in the areas of strategic planning, leadership development, performance management, diversity programs and team building, process reengineering, financial management, project management and systems implementations. Selected clients include: Prudential Financial, McGraw Hill Financial (S&P Global), and Goldman Sachs.

As a principal in Parris Associates, Ms. Parris brings more than 20 years of diverse financial services experience. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Accounting from Howard University and a Master of Business Administration in Finance from Pace University.

Prior to forming Parris Associates, Ms. Parris was a senior executive in Human Resources at JPMorgan Chase in New York. During her 16 year career at Chase, Ms. Parris traveled the globe and worked in a variety of leadership positions from audit to operations management to learning & development and talent acquisition. She was a subject matter expert in FX trading, futures and options operations; has led high performance mortgage operations teams; and championed change in merger environments, creating partnerships, minimizing risk, and streamlining functions. Ms. Parris is also an active leader in her community and was awarded the prestigious President’s Volunteer Service Award, by President Barack Obama for her dedication and work with youth programs. She serves on numerous non-profit boards, including the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA), Inc. New York Chapter, as Parliamentarian; Treasurer for the New Jersey Chapter of the Girl Friends, Inc. Conclave Committee; Treasurer for Beachplace Association Inc., Board of Directors; and Audit Chair for the NCNW (National Council of Negro Women), Raritan Valley Section. Her other passions include running and she’s earned a Six Star Finisher Medal for completing the Abbott World Marathon Majors in London, Tokyo, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, and New York. She also enjoys teaching the art of public speaking to 7 and 8 year olds and mentoring youth at the Harlem YMCA. Ms. Parris is married with two adult children.

Dona Scott Dona Scott moved to Longboat Key from Chicago, where she was actively engaged with multiple community causes. She was a board member of Providence St. Mel School, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (now known as The Shirley Ryan AbilityLab), and currently serves as a board member of After School Matters, one of the nation’s largest providers of after school programming for teenagers. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management at Dominican College in Orangeburg, NY.

Asa Thomas-Harris Asa Thomas-Harris was born and raised in Orlando, Florida September 8, 1980. Born to Fredrick Blocton and Sylvia Thomas of Pensacola, Florida. Asa has (3) Sisters and (1) Brother. Asa is the middle child. Asa started her career in hospitality after her mother who was a Director of Operations at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. In High School Asa worked for her mother as a PBX Operator and moved up from there in the industry. After Asa graduated from West Orange High School from their Law Magnet Program in 1999, she moved to Tampa to attend Hillsborough Community College and then University of South Florida to pursue a Marketing Degree. Asa quickly realized that she loved the hospitality industry and worked her way up to Director of Sales and Marketing by the age of 24 years old with Hyatt Hotels. She currently is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Art Ovation Hotel Sarasota. She was the very first employee hired.

Asa moved to Sarasota in June 2017 and lives here with her amazing husband Dominic Harris and they have two beautiful children Ian and Dominic Jr.

Outside of the hospitality industry Asa is a part of Navy League (previous Vice President), Junior League, nominated for Tampa’s Business Woman of the Year, Nominated and Won Sarasota County Tourism and Hospitality Rising Star in 2018, a part of The Links, Inc. and on The Board for USF Tourism and Hospitality.

Kitty Cranor Kitty Cranor moved to Sarasota from Louisville, KY, where she served on several not-for-profit boards, including The Louisville Zoological Gardens, The Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation, Actor’s Theatre and The Kilgore Samaritan Counseling Center. She has a B.A. from Salem College and an M.B.A. from The Darden School at University of Virginia. Since moving to Sarasota, Kitty has been an active volunteer at Tidewell Hospice, The Out-of-Door Academy, All Faiths Food Bank and Healthy Start.

Michael Gardiner Michael Gardiner comes to the board with vast experience in marketing and sales in the travel and hospitality industries. He held executive positions in Diners Club International, Resorts Condominiums International, and Hertz Rent A Car, where he was the Executive Vice President of Marketing for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Michael is a strong advocate for WBTT and the Dream Center in Manatee County. An avid theater buff, Michael and his wife, Karen, divide their time between Los Angeles and Sarasota.

Michele Hooper Michele Hooper is President and CEO of The Directors’ Council, which consults with major companies to improve the effectiveness of their corporate governance. With more than 30 years of corporate board experience, including over 25 years chairing audit committees of several global companies, Michele is a highly regarded governance expert and business leader. In 2017 she was selected as the National Association of Corporate Directors’ (NACD) Director of the Year. Michele currently serves on the corporate boards of directors of UnitedHealth Group (chair, Nominating and Governance) and United Airlines (chair, Audit Committee). She previously served on the boards of directors of PPG Industries, Target Corporation, Seagrams, Warner Music Group and AstraZeneca. Michele is Vice Chair of the Smithsonian National Board and is a board member of the Van Wezel Foundation. She retired from the boards of the NACD and the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ), where she was Chair of the CAQ Working Group focused on Deterring and Detecting Financial Reporting Fraud. Previously, Michele served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Voyager Expanded Learning and of Stadtlander Drug Company Inc. Prior to joining Stadtlander, she was Corporate Vice President, Caremark International Inc., and President of the International Business Group, responsible for the expansion of Caremark into Europe, Canada and Japan. Michele began her career at Baxter International; as President of Baxter Canada she led Canada’s largest health care and laboratory supplies company.

Dr. John E. Maupin Jr., DDS, MBA Dr. John E. Maupin Jr., DDS, MBA, is a retired healthcare executive, having most recently served as president of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta for 8 years, until his retirement in July 2014. His other executive leadership positions have included President of Meharry Medical College, Nashville; Chief Administrative Officer, Morehouse School of Medicine; and Deputy Commissioner for Medical Services, Baltimore City Health Department. Dr. Maupin was also a career dental officer in the United States Army Reserves, retiring in 1997 as Command Dental Surgeon for the 125th US Army Reserve Command. He currently serves on the board of directors of the VALIC Companies I & II, a mutual fund complex; and Encompass Health, Inc., a national in-patient rehabilitation and home-based healthcare management company. Dr. Maupin has a distinguished record as a healthcare expert and public policy advisor, having served on numerous national scientific advisory panels and federal and state public health councils. Actively engaged in community affairs, Dr. Maupin has previously served on the board of directors of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee (Chairman); United Way of Middle Tennessee (Chairman); Development Authority of Fulton County, Atlanta, Georgia (Vice-Chairman); America’s Promise Alliance, Washington, DC; and the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.

Dr. Randall C. Morgan, MD, MBA. Dr. Randall C. Morgan, MD, MBA., is a Sarasota-based orthopedic surgeon who also serves as the Executive Director of the W. Montague Cobb/National Medical Association Health Institute. A graduate of Grinnell College with a B.A. degree, and Howard University College of Medicine, he also completed a Residency in Orthopedic Surgery at Northwestern University and a Fellowship in Pediatric Orthopedics. Randall earned an MBA degree at the University of South Florida, received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Grinnell College and served as President of the National Medical Association 1996-97. He was elected to Gary, Indiana’s “Steel City Hall of Fame” in 2003. Currently, he serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor at two medical schools. Since the age of 11 Randall has sung publicly in cities around the U.S. as well as internationally. He has formed many bands, including, most recently, the Soul Sensations, who entertain local crowds in many venues. He has produced and performed in four major fundraisers for WBTT: Doo-Wop to Hip-Hop, The Second Time Around, Black or White, Makes My Music Right! and Put Your Hands Together He is also a member of the Gulf Coast Community Choir, which performs for enjoyment and to raise funds as a community service. He continues to practice consultative and non-surgical orthopedics in Sarasota and Bradenton.

Mona Rankin Mona Rankin moved to Sarasota in 2014. She spent 20 years in executive leadership roles with the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury, with her ultimate role as Chief of Staff. Her work history also includes higher education leadership positions at City University of New York and Florida International University. She is among the founders of the Harlem Renaissance Education Pipeline, a Cradle to Career Collective Impact Initiative in Harlem, NY. She is a past participant and presenter in Florida International University's Executive Leadership Enhancement Program. Until recently, she served on the Advisory Board of Literacy Suffolk, Long Island, NY.

Lee Rainer

Dr. Donald Reaves

Eva T. Slane Eva T. Slane started as an aspiring actress in New York City, but quickly became an Equity licensed theatrical agent in an agency with such prestigious clients as Helen Hayes, James Earl Jones, Lillian Gish, Martha Graham and Horton Foote. In 1960 she met and married Stephan Slane who was the founder and Artistic Producing Director of the North Shore Music Theatre (NSMT) in Beverly, Mass. Eva retired as an agent and assisted Stephan in NSMT’s operations until they retired in 1983. After moving to Sarasota, Eva became a strong supporter of the arts and has been honored by several organizations for her efforts. She has served on the WBTT Board since its beginning.

HONORARY TRUSTEES

Andrew Economos

June Gordon

Margie Nellum Lee

Mary Ann Robinson

Lois Watson

Ambassadors Circle

Christine Jennings, Co-Chair, served as WBTT’s CEO from 2009-2014. Under her leadership, the Troupe became financially strong and was able to purchase a 2½-acre site for our own theatre. She has a varied background involving finance, politics and community service. Her 40-year career in banking culminated in a 14-year stint as the Founder, President, CEO and Chair of the Board for the highly successful Sarasota Bank. Since Christine moved to Sarasota in 1984, she has been in leadership positions on boards of a number of arts, civic and not-for-profit organizations. She currently serves on the New College Foundation Board of Directors and the Canandaigua National Trust Company of Florida Board of Directors. Christine is the former Chair of the Sarasota County Democratic Party and has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the Outstanding Volunteer for the National Society of Fundraising Executives, Sarasota County Arts Council’s Arts Management Award, and SCOPE’s Boundary Crosser Award, to name a few.

Jacquelyn “Jackie” Woods, Co-Chair, is a Certified Residential Real Estate Sales Specialist with RoseBay International Realty. She is a past board member of the Manasota Branch of ASALH, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. She is currently a board member of The Boxser Diversity Initiative and an active member of The Links, Inc.

  • Honorable Dennis W. Archer
  • Shelia Atkins
  • Lynne Bernfield
  • Dr. Francine Brown
  • Frank Brunckhorst
  • Michael Bush
  • Judy Cuppy
  • Kim Davis
  • Donnie Diamond
  • Donna Dooley
  • Jenni Engleman
  • Robert Gaglio
  • Richard Gerrity
  • David Goldman, Esq.
  • Dr. Laverne Green
  • Howard Harris
  • Charlie Huisking
  • Tomeika Hunter-Koski
  • Amb. Jeanette Hyde
  • J.P. Knaggs
  • Lynne Koy
  • Joyce Locklear
  • Gregory Matthews
  • Kaveecia Moore
  • Hector Muniz
  • Andi Munzer
  • Vickie Oldham
  • Debbie Partridge
  • William Partridge, Esq.
  • Richard Perlman
  • Ann Hobson Pilot
  • Prentice Pilot
  • Dr. Jacqueline Ray
  • David Sales
  • David Shapiro, Esq.
  • Jeremy Shelby
  • Edna Sherrell
  • Barbara Shirley
  • Teresa Simmons
  • Marty Taffel
  • Melanie Thomas
  • Sheila Weiss
  • David Wilkins
  • Lois Wilkins
  • Hon. Charles E. Williams
  • Charles & Susan Wilson
  • Victor Young
  • Barbara A. Zdravecky

Steven J. Krause, Co-Chair, is a Senior Vice President and Senior Personal Trust Relationship Manager on the Wealth Advisory Team in the Sarasota office of Northern Trust, specializing in serving high net worth individuals and families with their wealth management, asset protection and estate planning needs. Prior to joining the Sarasota Region in 2012, he was a Personal Trust Relationship Manager in Northern Trust’s Lake Forest, Schaumburg, and Chicago, Illinois offices. Steve’s career of over 40 years with Northern Trust includes roles in marketing, banking, financial center management and regulatory compliance. He received a B.A. degree in Finance and Accounting from Mundelein College, and a Masters degree in Marketing from DePaul University. Steve is on the Board of both the Education Foundation of Sarasota County as well as the Tidewell Foundation. He is actively involved with Equality Florida and is a graduate of the Gulf Coast Board Institute.