Nate Jacobs previews new one-act plays.
“I am thrilled to present this “double feature” of two world premiere
one-act plays about two amazing African Americans who were
determined to define their own destinies—TV and Broadway dynamo
Nell Carter and boxing legend Muhammad Ali. In From Birmingham
to Broadway and Float Like a Butterfly, we’re fortunate to be able to
showcase the talents of two actors who portray these larger-than-life
personalities—WBTT favorite Tarra Conner jones and a young man
who is appearing for the first time on our mainstage, Darius Autry.
Tarra came to me when we were shut down due to the pandemic
and told me about an idea she had to develop a play about Nell
Carter, who grew up in Alabama but set her sights on Broadway —
even though she didn’t fit the mold of a glamorous stage diva. She
wowed audiences in Ain’t Misbehavin’ and went on to star in her
own TV series, Gimme a Break. Tarra, whose singing voice has been
compared to Nell Carter’s, decided to pay tribute to Carter by writing
and starring in a show about her. I encouraged Tarra to “go for it,” we
workshopped it together and I have the pleasure of directing it. The
music you will hear in the piece was directed by a friend and colleague
of Tarra’s, John Bronston, and was recorded at Etienne “EJ” Porter’s
Drummerboy Studios here in Sarasota.
For the Muhammad Ali piece I had long wanted to develop, I turned to
my brother, Michael Jacobs, who was the researcher and playwright.
As Michael and I developed the play we agreed that it should reflect
the many aspects of this man who is known throughout the world
not just for his pugilistic prowess in the ring, but also for his pride
and poetry beyond it. Ali continues to influence today’s athletes to
speak their mind about issues beyond whatever arena in which they
compete. Derric Gobourne Jr. and Henry Washington, both of whom
many of you know as actors, singers and dancers in many of our
productions, helped us capture the cadence of Ali’s signature musical
speaking style in a whole new way.
We dedicate these plays to the influence of Nell Carter and
Muhammad Ali—two very different individuals who both left their
mark on history and culture by insisting on being themselves and who
left wonderful legacies for those of us who follow in their footsteps.
We hope you enjoy From Birmingham to Broadway and Float Like a