Nate Jacobs and WBTT Subject of WEDU Documentary

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY AUG 31, 2018

Audiences and friends of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe might see a few more props and personnel moving about the theater if they visit in coming months, as WBTT and its founder and artistic director, Nate Jacobs, have become the subject of a new documentary project from WEDU PBS. Filming has already begun, and the documentary is scheduled to premiere December 2019.

Over the course of the next three to four months, the documentary crew will delve deep into the story behind WBTT, which next year celebrates 20 years exploring the African-American experience on stage. Conducting interviews with administration, performers and supporters will give the crew a feel for the community, and chronicling September’s Aretha Franklin tribute, Salute to the Queen, will afford a firsthand experience of the power of WBTT’s performance, but with filming beginning this past Sunday, it’s already clear that a big part of the story will be Jacobs himself, his path to WBTT and his struggle to keep that purpose alive.

A self-described “laidback little Southern guy from Florida who never thought he could make an impact on anything,” Jacobs now finds himself the heart and soul of a community institution he spearheaded through thick and thin—mostly thin—and seems to still wonder at the transformation. At one point, he was going to be a fine artist. Later, he had offers to act in New York City. Friends questioned his financial future, staying with a theater that couldn’t afford to pay a salary. “It only brought me self-satisfaction,” says Jacobs of his decision to keep building the theater he founded, “knowing that I was on my path, and I was on my journey. And I had to be content with that and be purpose-minded.”

That doesn’t mean it was easy. “I was a starving artist,” says Jacobs, who hit the pavement every season for more than a decade to find venues and raise money for costumes. “Recreating my world every year to try to be able to produce plays,” he says. “It called for every bit of me.” Now, with a theater complex and a salary and a community reputation for quality performance, Jacobs has time to look back. “It was a bare-bones, block-by-block, purpose and passion-driven journey,” he says.

Pictured: Nate Jacobs in interview with WEDU. Photo courtesy of WBTT.

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