Ruby Premieres at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

Arts & Culture

Pictured from left to right: The cast of Ruby includes Ashley Elizabeth Crowe, Catara Brae, Maurice Alpharicio and Larry Alexander. Photo by Sorcha Augustine.

A new musical has made its world premiere at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, with this show just as powerful and engaging as the company has ever done. After extended delays due to COVID-19, Ruby finally premiered at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe on February 28 and will run through April 7. The show, directed by WBTT founder/artistic director Nate Jacobs, with the book written by his brother Michael, chronicles the true story of Ruby McCollum, a Black woman who killed a white doctor in 1952 in Live Oak, Florida.

Ruby and her husband Sam were an unusually wealthy and prominent black family, especially living in a small town during the Jim Crow era, where African-Americans were essentially disenfranchised. “Ruby and Sam were so prestigious that it was odd, it wasn’t normal for Black people in the 1950s to have a two-story mansion in the middle of Live Oak and drive the kind of cars they drove and so they were a phenomenon for the white community as well as the Black community,” says Director Nate Jacobs. It was later found out, that amongst other things, the McCollums amassed their wealth through running an illegal gambling ring.

For some years before 1952, Ruby had been seeing Dr. C. Leroy Adams for medical counsel, a prominent white doctor and the only physician in Live Oak who saw Black patients. However, one Sunday in 1952, seemingly out of the blue, Ruby walked into Adam’s office and shot him dead with a revolver. “The mystery is, first of all, how could she be so bold during the 50s when the Klu Klux Klan ran rampant, to shoot this man? It became a national case and Zora Neale Hurston, an incredibly prolific writer at the time, was hired by the Pittsburgh Courier to cover the case,” says Jacobs.

The case became a national story, as the presiding judge put a gag order on Ruby preventing her from speaking to the press. In front of an all-white jury, Ruby stated that Dr. Adams had sexually assaulted her and was the father of her most recent child. However, despite all of this, Ruby was convicted and sentenced to death in the electric chair. Later on, however, the conviction was appealed and the case went to a second trial, during which Ruby was declared unfit to stand trial and was committed to the Florida State Hospital for mental patients where she resided until 1974. WBTT’s musical explores this challenging and intriguing true story, framed through the lens of Hurston’s coverage of the case for the Pittsburgh Courier.

Ruby runs from February 28 to April 7, 2024. West Coast Black Theatre Troupe, 1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota, westcoastblacktheatre.org.

Pictured from left to right: The cast of Ruby includes Ashley Elizabeth Crowe, Catara Brae, Maurice Alpharicio and Larry Alexander. Photo by Sorcha Augustine.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

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