SARASOTA, Fla. — After several weeks of intense training, a group of talented young actors is ready for the spotlight.
"I want to do this," 15-year-old Isaiah Belt said. It's fun to me, I really love it here."
"Dancing is probably what I enjoy the most here but everything is really great," 15-year-old Alitash Tafesse said. "Being with my friends is great as well so they make it 10 times better."
Now in its seventh year, the program coaches kids as young as 10 and up to 18 in acting, singing, dancing, and improvisation as well as set and costume design. They spent five weeks rehearsing and helping with the production of their showcase summer musical titled "We Dream."
"I actually have three people that I told about this that are here now and they love it as well they're having a lot of fun," Belt said.
The writer and director for this year's production adaptation said many of the participants are from underserved communities and the program provides access and exposure to the world of theatre and production.
"I am amazed at how hard they are working and the fact that they are taking this time, after being in school and all that we're dealing with, and with how that has changed, and putting in the work. It's just wonderful to see," Writer and director Jim Weaver said.
"I wanted to make sure we had a net, and a program to give young people the opportunity to even learn the skills in order to achieve dreams in the performing arts," said Nate Jacobs. He is the founder of WBTT.
Jacobs has mentored many young minority actors in Sarasota for several years. He said making the program entirely free with meals provided helps remove any barriers to participation.
"This opportunity is full scale," Jacobs said. "They get to learn and they get to get on the stage and shine. It's about them."
"You're yourself in the show, you're not anybody else," Belt said. "You can just be yourself."
The teens will be performing "We Dream" at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday, July 16, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 17, at the West Coast Black Theatre Troupe's Donelly Theatre in Sarasota. Click here to see ticket information.