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Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe performs Pulitzer Prize winner 'A Soldier's Play'

Soldiers stand in variety of positions
Some of the actors featured in WBTT’s ‘A Soldier’s Play’ are (from l-r) Michael Mendez, Donovan Whitney, Patric Robinson, Eric Van Baars and Terry Spann

The story takes place on a military base in the deep South during World War II.

West Coast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota is performing the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, “A Soldier’s Play,” through Feb. 18.

It’s a story about the murder of a Black sergeant on a Louisiana military base during World War II, decades before the Civil Rights Movement.

A soldier sits while another appears to question him.
Michael Mendez (right, pictured with Terry Spann) portrays Capt. Davenport, an investigator trying to solve a murder case on a U.S. Army base in Louisiana

Director Chuck Smith, the resident director of the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and WBTT, said even though the play is set in the past, there is a lesson for audiences to take away from this segregation-era story.

“Despite the fact that the country didn’t always love them, these men were true patriots, who were willing to fight and die for this country,” he said.

A man with a hat and a hoodie that says West Coast Black Theatre Troupe speaks to someone off camera
Courtesy of West Coast Black Theatre Troupe
Director Chuck Smith

Smith said there have been efforts to suppress Black history in the U.S. because it embarrasses some people. But he said the play serves as a reminder of what truly happened.

“In our production, they discuss soldiers going in into town and being lynched. So, sure, these things did actually happen. It's not like this was a fantasy,” he said.

In the process of rehearsal before the show opened, Smith came to this realization.

“I’m in love with my cast. And I’ve watched them become soldiers. They are military men,” he said.

And only one of the actors had any military experience, through the ROTC.

The play runs through Feb. 18. You can get details on tickets here.

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