On this episode of the Suncoast Culture Club podcast, hear director and choreographer Jim Weaver and performer Quinn Cason talk about Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe's fabulous production of "Eubie!," a toe-tapping revue of songs by Eubie Blake, legendary composer, ragtime pianist and “father of Black Broadway.”
Showing in WBTT's Donelly Theatre now through November 21, this show is not to be missed!
How did the fabulous Jim Weaver get from New York City to our beautiful Suncoast of Florida and what is his new role at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe? Did you know that Quinn Cason and Robyn Bell both went to the University of Tennessee??? And what about those round-a-bouts? Take 'em or leave 'em?!?!?
Hear all that and more on this episode of the Suncoast Culture Club podcast.
Get your tickets from the WBTT's website or through the Suncoast Culture Club's Calendar of Events page.
• Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• Nathan Benderson Park Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter & YouTube
• Tsunami Website & Facebook & Instagram
• Lido Key Beach Website
• St. Armand’s Circle Website & Facebook & Instagram
• C’est La Vie Website & Facebook
• First Watch Cafe Website & Facebook & Instagram
• State College of Florida Music Program Website & Facebook & Instagram
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Robyn Bell: I am thrilled this week to be joined by director and choreographer. Jim Weaver and actor Quinn Cason, both of Westcoast Black Theater Troupe's latest production called Eubie, a toe tapping review of songs by Eubie Blake. The legendary composer, ragtime pianist, and father of black Broadway. It is running now through November 21st in the Donelly Theatre on the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe's campus. So Jim and Quinn, welcome to the club.
Jim Weaver: Thank you glad to be here.
Quinn Cason: Very glad to be here.
Robyn Bell: It's a small club. It's getting bigger every week we did a whole special on the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe through the pandemic. And so this is the first time we really been able to showcase a show of theirs. So I'm very excited. You were able to join.
Jim Weaver: Oh, it's a pleasure. It's been a while since we've had something on the stage,
Robyn Bell: preach it brother. Now, Quinn, I'm going to get to you in a minute as you and I share something very special that you may not know about. And we might head off on a little tangent. So Jim, let's start with you. You have an extensive resume. Although I could certainly go on and on about, I would rather hear it from you. I am always fascinated with how people got into this business in the first place. Like for me, I joined band in seventh grade. When I found out you got in free to football games and you know, this is where it's got me. So tell us about you. How did your career gets started and what's landed you eventually here for Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.
Jim Weaver: Wow. How much time do you have?
Robyn Bell: Listen, I get paid by the hour. Take your time.
Jim Weaver: In a nutshell. I, always knew this is what I wanted to do. I started taking acting classes in New York City. That's where I'm from. I was about 12, 13 years old,
Robyn Bell: very different upbringing than like mine. And in the panhandle of Texas. I mean, you grew up in New York City.
Jim Weaver: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Oh, wow.
Jim Weaver: It's, interesting. You know, when I got older was able to travel more and just seeing the difference of how people lived and what was available to some people like say in a suburban area versus New York, just in school, those kinds of things was very interesting and very eye opening, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
Robyn Bell: And were you able to, you probably gonna tell us and I interrupted you, I apologize, but would you go to like an art school in New York City, where you had a lot of acting opportunities?
Jim Weaver: Actually, no. Okay. I was already taking acting classes at various workshops and theater companies in the city. And I actually auditioned for performing arts music and art, which were separate at the time and the high school of art and design. Okay. And because I was already. Basically doing shows. I decided I wanted a backup profession. So I was playing trumpet, which was one of the great things.
Robyn Bell: Hello. You're sitting here with a trumpet player
Jim Weaver: and I loved it. I love. And I auditioned for music and art. I got accepted. I audition for performing arts and got accepted, and I had to submit a portfolio of work for art and design and part of my strategy because I was already working as an actor. I decided I'm going to have a backup profession. So I decided to go to art and design. And I majored in photography just in case theater didn't work out.
Robyn Bell: Right. But still in the creative side of your brain, right? Yes. Yeah. It's not like you've got a business degree or accounting degree,
Jim Weaver: that was the one thing for me, as long as it was something creative. Than I thought I would be. Okay.
Robyn Bell: And you had a really supportive family of your desire to go into the arts?
Jim Weaver: . Oh yeah. My mom is a fine artist. She works in watercolors oils, canvas. She some ceramics for awhile, so it was definitely an atmosphere that was encouraging. Creativity, I would say. And so when I finally got the nerve to say, I want it to be an actor, they said, okay, you can go take acting classes as long as it's on the weekends. And didn't interfere with your schoolwork. Pretty typical,
Robyn Bell: nice priorities
Jim Weaver: kind of helped.
Robyn Bell: And did you have the opportunities to go see Broadway shows and. Theater productions in New York City.
Jim Weaver: Yes. As soon as I kind of expressed that interest, next thing I know my mom and my father had taking us to see Broadway shows, off-Broadway shows all kinds of things. So it was really
Robyn Bell: no better schooling for a young person to just go and absorb that.
Jim Weaver: Yeah. And I think maybe it was their way of exposing me to it to say, okay, let's see if this is really what you want to do. These are the kinds of things that are out. Are you serious about this or not? And so I was just like, yes, yes, yes, yes. Take the, yes. I got to see Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway in Hello Dolly.
Quinn Cason: Oh my goodness.
Jim Weaver: You know, just different things like that, you know, Broadway shows and such and. Basically, I got an agent when I was about 14, 15 years old.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Jim Weaver: I've done like three Broadway shows and I did my first Broadway show while I was still in high school
Robyn Bell: when his sitting in our room and our table. And he has this look of amazement. You're learning as much about Jim as I am. This is the first time you knew this.
Quinn Cason: Oh yes. Yeah, in fact, I actually saw the next, the last performance of the last revival of Ragtime that he was in. I saw that. And I did not find out this until like our dress parade when we were putting on our costumes. So he's a fascinating man.
Robyn Bell: One of the great things about this podcast is we get to talk to people that bring so much to the table and bring it here to Sarasota, Florida. Are you kidding me? It's really amazing to have you here speaking with us, Jim, with all of your experience.
Jim Weaver: Wow.
Robyn Bell: Truly. So did you end up going to college to get formal training then?
Jim Weaver: Yeah. Was pursuing the business and actually got accepted at Fashion Institute of Technology, furthering my photography work and then decided, okay, after that, I'm just going to really hone in and make a true go of it and see. How I can, maybe make a living in theater. I was already doing it. I had just moved out on my own, had my own apartment. So it was like, okay, I got to pay rent now. But luckily, , it worked out, I was able to continue working and started traveling. To Europe and various other cities in the country and stuff like that.
Robyn Bell: Did you find as a young person going to Broadway, you said you saw Cab Calloway and these kinds of things, but did you take notice that most of these roles be it in plays or theaters was for the, white person? I mean, did it affect you. Getting jobs or landing roles, or even just your mindset approach to it.
Jim Weaver: Oh yeah, that's something that was pretty obvious right from the beginning. That's why I thought it was such a treat to see Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway in their version of Hello, Dolly, you know, that kind of thing. And one thing with my parents, they always made sure that we were exposed to all kinds of cultures and people and all that, to just, to really be able to function in the world. Yeah, because we're all like a rainbow anyway. So that was something that really helped. But in terms of auditioning what I was being submitted for by my agent, those kinds of things, it became very clear the vocabulary or the. genre rhe of theater TV that I would be working in.
Robyn Bell: And how long ago was that? How many years ago?
Jim Weaver: Oh, you're going to make me give away too much now.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Well, let me ask the question a different way, because I'm trying, I'm trying to lead you to this. Have you in the last, maybe five years, let's go short time. Have you seen that change
Jim Weaver: to a certain extent? Yes, I did find. A lot of times it would always come down to like, say, for example, if I was going in for commercial, it would always come down to a choice maybe between me and one or two other people. And inevitably, because of the stereotyping that went on in the business and still continues to this day, because I'm light-skinned, they would always go with the person who was either a little browner. Or dark-skinned because
Robyn Bell: you weren't black enough.
Jim Weaver: I wasn't black enough. There was always the question. Okay. Well, what is he? You know, and so I had to kind of deal with that. And in some ways it was a hindrance and in other ways it was actually advantageous depending on what I was going in for, in terms of the type of.
Robyn Bell: I remember I saw, I say this on the podcast all the time, or regular listeners will be like, oh, Robyn, quit saying this, but I saw Hamilton in Chicago. I didn't see it in New York. I saw the touring version in Chicago. And it was, that experience was my first revelation. We had a black George Washington and it didn't phase me in the least, you know what I mean? And that's, when, in my mind I started like, I feel good. Like, we, can do this and we don't have to typecast. And George Washington does not have to be an old white man,
Jim Weaver: growing up for me I went through the phase where we got into the non-traditional casting, where they would take let's say a classic. Show like Guys and Dolls, My Fair Lady, and deliberately cast it with a various racial makeup, you know, that kind of thing. But now I can see that things are opening more in terms of acceptance, whether it's theater, film. Television that they're actually accepting people of mixed race of various color tones, Hamilton. For example, being able to, say, let's look at their talent. What do they bring to the role? Can they actually. Enhance the story based on their talent. And so that's a very welcome.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And I've seen a lot of intentionality, not just the race, but you look commercials on TV now and they're showing same-sex couples or they're showing, mixed families with kids and stuff. And so yes, it has been very intentional. This is what everybody looks like this, you know, this is a normal family now, so it's been really good. So had a lot of jobs. You've been some really cool places, including Kent State where you working there. Yeah. So tell us about. Your different careers and roles. And then how did you land in the director seat?
Jim Weaver: Well, to me, directing is a natural evolution in terms of being a performer. It's something that you're interested in after doing theater and whatever for several years, I Started off being like dance captain for different productions. And then I wound up mounting shows for directors because like, say if like I did the cruise ships for a few years. And so if the director of a show had to go off and put the show on one ship, I would be left in charge of mounting. The show for the next ship in the rehearsal studio
Robyn Bell: for our listeners. It may be for me, it just orchestra conductor. What does the term mounting mean?
Jim Weaver: Oh, when you, when you're actually teaching the show to the actors blocking where they have to be on stage the choreography. Okay.
Robyn Bell: This is a theater term mounting, right? Yeah,
Jim Weaver: yeah. Yeah. You're putting the show together basically. And so. Eventually led to people asking me to choreograph shows or direct shows. So that's why I say it was kind of a natural evolution. It didn't feel forced in any way
Robyn Bell: or the Rick Kerby of Manatee Players. The artistic director of Manatee Players and same thing. He started as a performer, but then was a really good dancer. And. Choreographer. And he says, maybe you feel the same way that choreographers, make good directors,
Jim Weaver: Quinn will attest to this. One of the things that I've said to them over and over again in the whole rehearsal process, it's all about telling a story. So in my mind, I can see it. I get a great sense of satisfaction out of directing and figuring out the puzzle. So that's how I can kind of equate what you're saying in that way. For me, it all comes down to the acting, whether you're singing, dancing, or doing a straight play as an actor, you're trying to tell a story and you have to communicate that through your body language, through your energy, through emotions, all of that. So it all goes hand in hand in that way.
Robyn Bell: And where do you call home now?
Jim Weaver: I just moved to Sarasota.
Robyn Bell: This is how it all begins. Right? So you have been here several times doing stuff for Westcoast, Black Theatre Troupe, and you decided. Hey, let's move down here.
Jim Weaver: Well, how this all happened? I decided after several years that I wanted to go back to school and get my MFA because I wanted my academic credentials to basically. Match my practical experience doing theater and film or whatever.
Robyn Bell: And, and in our world, and MFA is a terminal degree. Like I have a doctorate in music, but at MFA master of fine arts, that is the pinnacle of education for what you guys. Right.
Jim Weaver: Yeah. Yeah. Getting that degree led to my teaching adjunct and then getting a permanent position at Kent State. And just prior to coming to Westcoast, I was the director of the theater department for the Stark campus for Kent State.
Robyn Bell: And academia is really. A whole different world, isn't it?
Jim Weaver: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I enjoyed it because I loved my students. I got to pick seasons. I got to deal with budgets and learn the business aspect of theater contracts, getting designers, all that stuff.
Robyn Bell: It's like running up professional theater company, but assigning grades. Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. You're done with that stint at Kent State. And you're going to come to Sarasota.
Jim Weaver: Well, when they approached me about the position, it almost felt like such a natural step because of my history with Westcoast and having come down here several years to direct productions for them. Adding my academic experience and my creative experience to what they were asking me to do in this position. It was like, and move to Sarasota. How could I say no?
Robyn Bell: So what is your new title? What's your umbrella role with Westcoast
Jim Weaver: my official title is Director of Education and Artistic Associate so I get to do the teaching stuff, getting on faculty for lack of another term, to teach the various classes and expand what's available in education at Westcoast but I also get to direct the shows. I get to write some of the shows. Yeah. So it's kind of bringing all of those things. That happened in my life together.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Well, we hope you find a nice place to live. Housing prices are just insane right now. So, best of luck with that, but you're, going to love the day-to-day life people go, oh, I'm go to the beach every day. That never happens if you live here, it doesn't see. But we're, really happy that you're here now.
Quinn, you grew up in Lebanon, Tennessee. And is that where the acting and singing bug hit you?
Quinn Cason: No. Outside of loving old movie musicals, I kind of raised myself on the classic musicals. My Fair Lady Sound of Music, but my little small town didn't have a community theater and my high school the man in charge of mounting the production decided shortly before I got there, I don't want to do that anymore. So it really wasn't. College where I actually got. Oh, I want to be an actor. This is what it actually is
Robyn Bell: late start.
Quinn Cason: Very late start.
Robyn Bell: But growing up in high school, were you in the choir band orchestra or anything like that?
Quinn Cason: I was in choir. I was in freshman year in marching band. That about broke me.
Robyn Bell: Me too. What did you play?
Quinn Cason: Trumpet? All the trumpets in the room.
Robyn Bell: You can't have the end of the world without a room full of trumpet players. We know this,
Quinn Cason: Yeah, but like the the logistics of marching band and the heat and. Saying, oh, do this, or do pushups. I did not really
Robyn Bell: miserable.
Quinn Cason: I was not really of that elk.
Robyn Bell: Nope. So how did you decide where to go to college?
Quinn Cason: Well,
Robyn Bell: growing up at Lebanon, maybe that's just a given you have to go to the University of Tennessee.
Quinn Cason: No, actually that was like one of my last resorts, because my grand scheme is like, I'm going to go to NYU early admission or Belmont musical theater. That's what I'm doing did not get accepted to NYU. Belmont accepted me and I could not afford it. So then my mom was like, okay, these were your plans. They fell through. You have to apply to every state. You've got to get an education. Oh yeah. They told me you're going to college and you're going to pay for it and you can make the grades. So UT was the biggest there was theater attached music department, so. Sign me up
Robyn Bell: and what you might not know Quinn. And I talked about this right before you came Jim, but I also went to the University of Tennessee. Oh, go Vols. I was a graduate assistant there getting my conducting degree with the Pride of the Southland Band. And as soon as I said that, Quinn Glenwood, oh Lord. How did you ever have a life? I said, I didn't, you know, it's just insane. But we probably, I think we're maybe seven, eight years apart on those campuses me before. You're a young whippersnapper. But we walked the same streets and then the same hall did they have the new music building? When you were there?
Quinn Cason: They did not. They came around shortly after.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. So of course after, so you were in that old, I mean, it had a lot of character and charm, but it was tough.
Quinn Cason: It was, we also had the alumni building where the vocal students had their practice rooms and the studios and everything. So it was rough, but you know, you find a way and a place to make music.
Robyn Bell: That's right. I used to have to walk for my trumpet lessons to this row of houses, like these little bungalows that somebody had died and left the left the college. And that's where my trumpet lessons were on the third floor of this musty old, you know, 1910 house. It was wild.
Jim Weaver: I'm just trying to imagine the acoustics though.
Robyn Bell: Horrible they have to open all the windows and you could hear everything down the street. And it was, it was pretty rough, but I got a really good education. And evidently Quinn, you did as well.
Quinn Cason: Completely. I love my education at UT. The music department, the classical voice department what I learned about the voice and good vocal production and vocal health and the theater side, having an equity Lord D theater attached to your college was one of the. Fruitful things for my life as a performer.
Robyn Bell: And so you finished there, you said in 2009. Okay. And where did your next step go? After college?
Quinn Cason: I was lucky to get a job a month after college at the uh, Cumberland County Playhouse and Crossville Tennessee.
Robyn Bell: Yes. Cumberland County Playhouse. I'm very aware.
Quinn Cason: Are you?
Robyn Bell: Yes, my very first dog came from that area. Crossville.
Quinn Cason: It's a little town.
Robyn Bell: You and I don't know, we're only separated by a couple of years, but I think we like the world spins in funny ways. We're like right there, you know, I went to the University of the South, the Swanee summer music festival as a, high school student and
Quinn Cason: wow. Wow.
Robyn Bell: We've breathed the same air, my friend,
Quinn Cason: kindred spirits, like I'm digging this energy.
Robyn Bell: So, you were at the Cumberland county Playhouse doing some cool stuff. They're
Quinn Cason: doing a lot of cool stuff for about seven years after I worked there either part of the year or all year done over 40 shows everything from straight plays, traditional musicals, not growing up performing, or really knowing what theater was. Outside of college. I wanted to get as much real-world experience as possible. I want to do all the things. Musical straight plays, children's theater, dinner theater. I'm like I need experience because this career is a lot more beneficial and easier to work within. If you have. The tools and know the expectations.
Robyn Bell: Right. And kind of the same question I have for Jim at that point in your career, even at UT, did it matter the color of your skin where they, putting you in any role that you qualified for?
Quinn Cason: There was some struggle realistically. Yeah, but I always felt that people championed me as a black artist because I was one of the one or two only people in the. Opera department. And in the theater, I was one of the few males that could kind of sing or dance. So the fact that I could sing it all in the theater department, got me some great roles. So I felt blessed. But coming outside of college into the real world was a whole nother picture.
Robyn Bell: Yeah.
Quinn Cason: You know?
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah.
Jim Weaver: That's where some of the major education starts.
Robyn Bell: Sure.
Quinn Cason: Oh yeah.
Robyn Bell: And learning to navigate that. You know, I mean, obviously I am white, but I'm a woman and I'm an orchestra conductor and I was a high school band director. I was like the only woman high school band director not the whole state of Georgia, but certainly in my area. So I think I've had similar challenges, but I would never equate it to the challenges that, you guys and gals have, experienced. But I certainly am. Sensitive to that,
Jim Weaver: you can kind of relate.
Robyn Bell: I can kind of relate a little bit. But I just really appreciate it. It seems to me recently, especially how, I don't want to say how far we come, cause it's never going to go far enough, but it seems to be getting a little better. From my perspective and just what I see and what I can do to hire. Black guests, artists, and perform black composers music and, put that out there on the more of the forefront. And I'm glad that there is a place like Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, though, that really brings the attention to the special talents. Like when we talk about Eubie, People need to know about Eubie Blake and I'm not sure they would, unless it was a situation like the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe bringing it to people's attention.
Quinn Cason: No. Yes.
Jim Weaver: Well, I think, you know, a lot, of it has to do with just being aware and sometimes until you actually put things in front of people, you know, they're going about their lives. They're not thinking about that kind of thing over there. That's right, right. But then when you make it available and that's what I think is happening too. Like you were saying, it's just mindsets are changing. Eyes are opening a little more acceptance. It's not easy. There's a long way to go, but a little more acceptance. Oh, they're not really that different, you know, their experiences may be different, but, just being more accepting of diversity. In terms of just having some empathy or being able to relate, there are struggles that you go through as a. That we're two men. We deal with the racial thing, but there are aspects of being a man in the world that we just don't have to deal with that kind of stuff, you know? So yeah, you can relate to the struggles.
Robyn Bell: And I like to think we're all in the same boat and we just a. oars rowing in the same direction, you know, that kind of thing.
Jim Weaver: Nice analogy.
Robyn Bell: So, yeah. So Quinn then, you're in Cumberland, Tennessee? How did you land here on the Suncoast eventually? What, path took you here
Quinn Cason: every year Westcoast has uh, audition where you can come live or you can submit. And then they cast their shows. Jim has been a part of that process many times, but I submit it electronically. This was one of those jobs. I get a lot of my work through hunting on the internet and following leads and sending emails and making videos. So connections, connections, totally networking is so important in this job. And so I submitted to the general audition and. Did not get it, but then several months later I get an email saying, Hey, would you still like to do this? And I do not know what happened, but I was like yes, I would.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Someone else's loss as your gain
Quinn Cason: will take that and I will run with it. So that brought me here. My first show was with Jim as a director, it was Raisin and a kind of. Fell in love with the city. Definitely that theater never worked for primarily black artistic theater and is one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Robyn Bell: I bet. Did we just kind of encompassed by the mission of we're presenting this and we're changing perspectives with our artistic output?
Quinn Cason: Yes. Directly affecting lives and seeing the faces on the audience members of seeing a stage full of black people. Me going forward in my life, living my life and my truth and trying to be a good human being is how I can be a proper credit as a man, as a black man, as a citizen of this world. So yes, Eubie Blake, this outstanding historical composer. In the African-American land and Broadway in general, people need to know about him and what he accomplished.
Robyn Bell: Right. And do you live here permanently now?
Quinn Cason: I do not.
Robyn Bell: Where do you call home?
Quinn Cason: Nashville. Yeah. Yeah. I was living there during the great town and it's up and coming like normally I'm like, what larger city can I go to and live, but Nashville I'm like, oh, Nashville come along. Okay. Maybe Nashville. I could live
Robyn Bell: there. Good craft breweries, right?
Quinn Cason: Yes.
Robyn Bell: Yes. And Jim, I don't know if you know this, but Tennessee been long, like it is there's east, Tennessee, Knoxville. There's middle Tennessee Nashville. And then there's west Tennessee Memphis, and it is three completely separate everything. Landscapes, personality. Well, it's, it's crazy.
Quinn Cason: Yeah. Diverse. As you could see,
Robyn Bell: very diverse. So this show Eubie the two we're talking about Jim you're directing and choreographing and Quinn you are performing in this about Eubie Blake? Who is. I'm really embarrassed to say. I had never heard of before I had the opportunity to experience the marketing that Westcoast had put out and saying, oh, we're going to interview them. So this is one of the things that I love about the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, though. You educate us on people and things that we should know about. And I think our level of gratefulness and entertainment factor are equally balanced there. So tell us about this amazing man and how this review shines a spotlight on his career.
Jim Weaver: Wow. Well in 1921, he and his partner, they were the first African Americans to have a show and considering the year that they were able to do this, but they had the first African-American show on Broadway Shuffle Along written and composed by African-Americans performed by African-Americans and produced by African-Americans. He basically was a prodigy and started very young composing music,
Robyn Bell: piano player,
Jim Weaver: piano player, and ragtime and just. Didn't seem to have much of a limit in terms of the styles that he was able to play. He got into the ragtime then blues jazz.
Robyn Bell: would there be. A piece of music that he did that if you hum the tune, I would know it immediately.
Jim Weaver: Oh yeah.
Quinn Cason: Oh, definitely one. I can think of
Robyn Bell: Go, sing it for us sing it. yeah.
Quinn Cason: I'm just wild about Harry Harry
Robyn Bell: That's Eubie Blake?.
Quinn Cason: Yes, it is. That was the only song, honestly, that I was really familiar with in this show, but I knew every word. That's just been around so long and commercials all over the place. . I love it.
Jim Weaver: Yeah. Yeah. One of his first early hits, from Shuffle Along songs that were recorded and, song by people, just generation after generation
Robyn Bell: and putting this review together. Jim, did you sort of organize the whole show? I mean, I know the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe did 20 years ago when they first opened, this was the first show they did right this review of this. And so who then went through, pick the tunes and we're going to put them in this order and tell the story that.
Jim Weaver: Well, this actually is a preexisting show. It was first done on Broadway back in, I believe 79, 19 80. And so that's where I first saw it. And in terms of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe doing it 20 years ago, they basically had a script that was put together.
Robyn Bell: I see
Jim Weaver: that they mounted for themselves. And so the songs were already part of. The whole thing,
Robyn Bell: Is there a live band behind you?
Jim Weaver: there not on stage. There was a live band but they actually miked in the whole sound system. They're in a separate room on the second floor of the theater.
Robyn Bell: It's amazing.
Quinn Cason: It's so cool.
Jim Weaver: In that respect, we have options. Depending on how you want the show to look, you can have them onstage, or if you want a little more space to be able to have the actors work around, then there's the option of putting them on the second floor in their sound room.
Robyn Bell: Well, and this is what Broadway is doing now. I mean, I've heard that we got the drummer on fifth avenue on the floor, eight. We got the trumpet player over here and they have their headphones and it just is magic.
Jim Weaver: Well, just to tie in with you mentioning ragtime I was in the revival because of the theater space. What happened is the orchestra usually is in the front of the stage a little bit underneath. The stage surface, but there's a little pit. The pit. Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. That's right.
Jim Weaver: Duh music.
Robyn Bell: I'm in the pit,
Jim Weaver: but you know, with the older Broadway houses it's limited space. So what they did, they had some of the orchestra members in the pit, but then backstage. Next floor down. They had an entire room with the rest of the musicians and they were miked in. So they had a seriously heavy door that would close when it was Showtime. Cause it was soundproof. So the actors have back there going to the dressing room and the costumes and doing all this kind of stuff while they're in there playing the show.
Robyn Bell: As a musician, the best part about that is I don't have to wear a costume because show up in my jeans and t-shirt and tennis shoes and play the show.
Jim Weaver: Yeah, there you go.
Robyn Bell: Really cool.
Jim Weaver: Those in the pit, they had to have their tuxedo on or be in the nice dress and all that kind of stuff.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Now many people are in this cast for this production you guys are doing?
Okay, 11. And, and at times they're all on stage. And at times it's just one or two on stage, and it's a lot of variety there,
Jim Weaver: group numbers that sometimes a medleys or segue into a solo, you know, but there were times when there are background harmonies that these guys had to learn. They'd learned them very well.
Robyn Bell: When do you have a song that you kind of shine on your, this spotlight?
Quinn Cason: I love the song In Honeysuckle Time.
Robyn Bell: Okay.
Quinn Cason: Because I get to just hop around stage, sing about how much I love my gal Emmeline and. And belt my face off. I get to do all the things. And by the end of that number, I'm like, I did it and I didn't fall on my face. I'm winning.
Jim Weaver: I have to give him kudos because he does that song. It's segues right out of the opening number for the show, which involves everybody all 11 actors. And it's pretty it's right at the top. And he doesn't get a break. He has to segue directly into that song and he somehow finds the breath takes control and he gets through it.
Quinn Cason: Yeah. Somehow show I have to practice my breathing. I told you several times, I'm like, okay, I'm practicing. Okay. Singing my notes. And then like, oh, I'm going to take two breaths here. And I need to be more relaxed and all those great techniques I learned at UT that's what gets me through. It's like a work I'm working and it is wonderful. When theater is your work.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And I'm sure Jim, part of the fun of this as, as a choreographer is putting all of that movement and blocking together in the dance steps. And I can imagine you had maybe certain inspiration for this show, how you put all this.
Jim Weaver: Ah, just the music and listening to the lyrics. Luckily I wound up with a cast that I felt was very strong in terms of their individual talent and ability to carry. On their own, but also work together as a group very well. And so that was a great deal of my inspiration, you know, the style of music, obviously, but listening to what the words are saying, what the story is and focusing on communicating that that was my inspiration.
Robyn Bell: I did find it very interesting that, I mean, the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe opened their doors with their own building 20 years ago. And this was the first show they did. And I was just thinking to myself when I realized that about how far the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe has come. I mean that beautiful new stage, they have the beautiful new theater. Just, it's an amazing organization here. Now one difference between 20 years ago, and today may be what I call mean, nasty COVID and all the protocols that we never had before. So I know that the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is following the safe arts Sarasota guidelines. So when people come see the show, what can they expect as far as their protection against the spread of COVID in the Donelly Theatre?
Jim Weaver: Well, what they've put into place along with several others. Organizations is that everyone has to wear a mask and that's so that they are protected as an audience member, but also so that the actors can come out on stage and be safe as well, because they're doing the show without masking.
Robyn Bell: Sure.
Jim Weaver: So there's that requirement. They have to show that they've either. Recently within the last, 72 hours had a COVID test that proved negative, or they have to show their card to prove that they've been vaccinated. And it's all about just keeping everyone safe so that we can come back and be in the same space and really, really minimalized.
Robyn Bell: There have been some productions around the country, even here in Sarasota that , they get going. And there's a, COVID spread in the, cast and we got to shut things down and, we don't want that.
Jim Weaver: It recently happened on Broadway as they've been trying to reopen, you know, but also another step that they're taking, because we also, as an organization are working with the different theater unions. We're required to get COVID testing like twice a week.
Quinn Cason: Oh yeah.
Jim Weaver: We're kind of living in a bubble trying to protect each other. But also using that as a step to prove that we haven't had a breakthrough.
Robyn Bell: And thank goodness the COVID testing is rather simple. Can you imagine if they had to prick your finger or take blood or something every time? So it, you know, at least it's just a swab.
Quinn Cason: Very true.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. I keep saying that
Quinn Cason: silver lining, you gotta find the silver linings in this world we live in.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. That's all right. And speaking of mean nasty COVID and I think at some point in the future, This next topic we can just sort of forget about it. We don't have to keep talking about it, but one of the things I'm really interested in through the podcast, which came about from the pandemic, cause I was just bored to tears with, I didn't have any conducting to do. I said, I'm gonna start a podcast. So tell me, what did the pandemic in the shutdown look like for you? Where were you guys when you found out sort of the world was coming to an end and how did you handle these past 18? Quinn?
Quinn Cason: I was getting ready to move to Philadelphia last April, and then when all the stuff started to happen, I realized that's not the best idea.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. That totally changed your trajectory
Quinn Cason: completely. But earlier that January, I got a temp job for a tech software company in Nashville. So I was just like working there. Then all this happened, they let go. Most of the people, but hired me on full time. So. For most of it until the tax season started beginning of this year, it was like me and four other people and a big room built for like 150. And I had my groceries delivered. I had like take out I was kind of living a very normal me life. I'm a little introverted and to myself as it is. So I was just very thankful to have some kind of stability. I can just go to this job and then I can go home, take my mind off what's going on in the world
Robyn Bell: you weren't creating you weren't acting, but you had a really good steady job through all of this.
Quinn Cason: Oh yes. Yes.
Robyn Bell: That's a remarkable story. That's that's not what we're hearing. So kudos to you.
Quinn Cason: I know. I feel so blessed for that because that. People's experiences and I acknowledge that,
Robyn Bell: but now you don't work there anymore.
Quinn Cason: Oh, I'm so happy. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Jim, what about you? What was going on in your life when all this craziness happened?
Jim Weaver: Wow. I was still working at Kent State. We had just opened a directed, a production of the. And we had just opened and we were getting ready to do our second week of performances. And this was like a Wednesday. They literally told us earlier that day. Yeah, this is the last.
Robyn Bell: So this was probably Wednesday, March 11th, cause things kind of shut down the 12th and 13th. Right. I call it Friday the 13th. I'll never forget it.
Jim Weaver: So, and, and it was kind of like what? So everything just, you know, boom. They closed the campus every, class. So I had
Robyn Bell: sent all the kids home,
Jim Weaver: they sent everybody home. And so we basically, as instructors have. Two or three days that weekend to basically
Robyn Bell: build your entire class online. You and I had shared the same experience. How am I going to teach zoom band? It was terrible.
Jim Weaver: It was terrible. Young classes seen work monologue.
Robyn Bell: We just did the best we could. And, and I don't know about it can stay, but here kids just disappeared. We couldn't get ahold of them. We couldn't get them to communicate with us. They just disappeared. Not all of them, some of them,
Jim Weaver: wow. I can only speak to my experience and every student that I had in my acting classes,
Robyn Bell: That's remarkable
Jim Weaver: and they were faithful and they, just adjusted. We did whatever exercises we actually coordinated partner works, scene, work, all that kind of stuff online on a computer on zoom.
Robyn Bell: That's pretty amazing. Now we here, we, I mean, we're a community college, we're open access and we have a very wide diverse student population. And many of the students that I say disappeared, it was very situational because a lot of them, their parents are working in fields that got shut down, hospitality, hotel, things like that. And I think a lot of them, their parents were like, okay, we gotta go. And they, just ended up leaving. Cause there was no word. For them in those particular fields, you know, restaurants and hotels. that was just what I observed. But again, a very different environment from a community college to a big university, like Kent State,
Jim Weaver: it's not to paint the picture that everything was rosy because you know, just the whole adjustment. Yeah. There were people that sometimes if family members got sick, they had to deal with that. So there were times when I would have. Well, a couple of students who couldn't be in class that day, because they had to take their father to the hospital of the doctor, unfortunately, that kind of thing. Right. So there were ups and downs and as I'm sure you experienced too, even those that were there on a regular basis, there was a whole emotional and mental upheaval adjusting to that kind of working and learning environment.
Robyn Bell: We had a logistical problem in that. Here comes the end of the semester and I've got. 72 instruments checked out and music with folders and everything needs to be turned back in. And that was like, okay, you're gonna bring me back. Your tuba. Did we clean it? Do we take it? You know, how do we get it? So that, that was a tough part of being an instrumental director in our choir director was, collecting dresses and tuxedos, from people's homes. And because they, just said, don't go back today. You know, it was.
Jim Weaver: And when I would finally, cause I was months of not being on campus because I was teaching online. But then when I finally did go back to the department and walked into the theater, it was like the eeriest feeling because literally this town, everything that had been. The costumes and the dressing rooms, the props backstage, what was onstage? All of that was still exactly where we,
Robyn Bell: it was like the world stood still. It was very, very strange. Well, we made it through and you left Kent State, and they say 40% of people change jobs during the pandemic. So there's three of us here. You changed jobs, you know, you changed. It's pretty remarkable.
Jim Weaver: This wasn't something that I planned because as far as I was concerned at this stage, I was at Kent. I was loving what I was doing and okay. I'm like in, for the long haul. But then when this opportunity came up with Westcoast and like I said, seeing how it really brought together. Different aspects of what I'd experienced and the opportunity to have. Cause you know, academia, sometimes the wheels turn very slowly. No, you, you know, you have ideas for things that you propose, but then it's. Go to this committee, that committee, and then it has to get approved all the different things. And it could be two years later that you finally maybe get approval. Whereas with Westcoast as the director of education, it's a much more immediate response. If I propose an idea and then we're able to seek funding
Robyn Bell: you can implement it right away.
Jim Weaver: Yes.
Robyn Bell: Huge difference.
Jim Weaver: Yeah. And knowing that. You're making a huge difference to people who maybe would not have experienced theater before, you know,
Robyn Bell: you've got a really cool role here, but I'm excited to see where you take that part of the job. I really am. I'm going to keep my eyes there. Now, this next thing we're going to talk about. I call this our chamber of commerce moment. So Quinn, what is the perfect day on the Suncoast? What does it look like for you? If you could like wake up and go anywhere in town, do anything with anybody what's on your list.
Quinn Cason: I love to go run at Nathan. Benderson Penn
Robyn Bell: Anderson park. That's a great place to run around that with the rowing water and
Quinn Cason: yes, and sailboats just going by and there's enough space to social distance, which I'm all about right now.
I also like going to the movies, I'd go to the movie,
Robyn Bell: Which movie would you like burns court or you go to which movies here?
Quinn Cason: I like AMC, aMC. Sometimes a Bradington. Is that Bradenton? Yeah. I like to go there because they have a big movie theater and you know, more room for social distancing, right. And food. Okay. Sarasota just has an incredible food, probably lobster bisque from KCC food or sushi from tsunami.
Robyn Bell: That'd be perfect. One of our favorite places. Yes. As I say, you can't have culture without culinary. And you know, we, we have so much culture here and you see that in our culinary offerings as well. . Cause
Quinn Cason: you've so much, I mean, there's a hungarian festival here and I love the diversity of the city.
Robyn Bell: Come back in February. There's a Greek festival. It's awesome too. Definitely Greek food all day.
Jim Weaver: That's the, that's the thing I'm looking forward to that kind of stuff, because when I would be here before, it would always be for a limited amount of time in
Robyn Bell: maybe you couldn't really experience all the day-to-day activities.
Jim Weaver: There you go. Yeah. So now that I'm living here, I'll get to go to the Greek festival and experience all these different things.
Robyn Bell: As a choreographer. You're gonna love the Greek festival because they have all the kids come out in the different age groups and they do all these Greek dances, you know, and they have a live band in our life. Five four time and seven, four time, you know, it's kind of lopsided, but you know, it's really, really neat. You'll enjoy that. Well, what about you, Jim? What do you guys like to do here on the Suncoast?
Jim Weaver: Wow. Lido beach. Oh, I love going there. St. Armand's circle I'll I'll kind of sometimes go there and wander around the some great restaurants over there.
Robyn Bell: I love St. Armand circle
Jim Weaver: just a day where the sun comes up. Maybe. Low eighties with low humidity. That was one thing that I experienced when I moved. It was August. Oh, you would go out. Yeah. You would go outside and it would be like just walking through. Yeah. You know, so it's like, okay, this is part of the learning experience. Okay. Now that I'm here. Yes. Okay.
Robyn Bell: I had thought our humidity stretch for the season had come to an end cause it had been really nice. And then yesterday it was like we had some clouds come in and it was oppressive outside.
Jim Weaver: It came roaring back from the day.
Robyn Bell: Hmm, that's too bad, but we are about to get into the time of year when it is absolutely perfect here everyday low 80, 79, 80, 81. No humanity is perfect. Good. Okay. So I guess some rapid fire questions for you, so Jim, we'll start with you best breakfast in Sarasota.
Jim Weaver: Hmm, that's a tough one. I would say the front, there's a French restaurant on main street.
Robyn Bell: C'est la vie
the least you also, how bad you have, you had some breakfast Quinn
Quinn Cason: First Watch.
Robyn Bell: Oh yeah. Yeah. And you know, First Watch is a chain, but it's here is based on. Oh,
Quinn Cason: yes, because there's one in Nashville right across the street from my apartment. And then when I saw it here, I'm like, wait, this started in Sarasota.
Jim Weaver: Did not know that. Okay. Yeah. There was one in my neighborhood.
Quinn Cason: Really? Yeah. You have to eat there and get the million dollar bacon.
Jim Weaver: Oh, I've been saying, oh, I've been, I just didn't realize it was from Sarasota.
Robyn Bell: They have those monthly specials on the board and I don't even look at the menu. I go, whatever is on your board. Give me that today because their food is so good. So C'est la vie too. Actually, I was just there this weekend. C'est la vie I love their crepes and their quiche. If you're into some French food, you got to go to C'est la vie outdoor dining.
Quinn Cason: Oh, perfect. Even better.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Okay. Jim, a day at the beach or a day-by-day.
Jim Weaver: Beach
Robyn Bell: Quinn
Quinn Cason: beach
Robyn Bell: to Sam gets kind of dirty. No, he, okay.
Quinn Cason: Yeah. It's actually real gross and it gets everywhere that I do not like, but everyone loves the beach. So I'm a team player.
Jim Weaver: It doesn't bother me. You know, that's part of the experience if I get to Sandy. Okay, fine. I'll just go into the water and rinse off.
Robyn Bell: I hear you.
Quinn Cason: That's a good.
Robyn Bell: Hmm, but then I get salt on me. This is my problem with the beach. When the air hits me the salt dries on my skin and it makes my skin burn, I got problems with I'm a pool girl.
Jim Weaver: I live by the pool is fine. You know, if, if it's convenient, cause actually where I'm living. There is a pool right there.
Robyn Bell: Very convenient,
Jim Weaver: very convenient, but it's not the same as. Salt air the breeze blowing.
Robyn Bell: Very true.
Jim Weaver: All of that.
Robyn Bell: But when I think about having to pack up to go to the beach and pack my chairs and pack my this and that I'd get exhausted thinking about it. So I just go to the pool. It's all right there. I'm terrible. I'm a terrible, terrible beach person. I'm so sorry about that. Okay. Jim Hamilton or in the Heights?
Jim Weaver: Hamilton
Robyn Bell: Quinn
Quinn Cason: in the heights,
Robyn Bell: in the Heights like that. When we had a really cool experience here last year, where Mandy Gonzalez if you know her on Broadway, she's one of the Schuyler sisters in Hamilton, but she was also in the Heights. So it was interesting to hear her because she started within the Heights and then went into that. But she, talked through zoom over the pandemic to our music major class. It was so cool. Wow.
Jim Weaver: I think the only reason that I picked Hamilton is I love In the Heights because I actually did get to direct and choreograph production for Westcoast actually. And it speaks to a definite culture and, a people that need representation.
Quinn Cason: Yes.
Jim Weaver: But I think with Hamilton, the uniqueness. Of how it was presented, because as we were saying earlier, it showed the acceptance of diversity and things that you would not expect. Being able to take the actors and use their talent for what they can do with it.
Robyn Bell: It's really opened the door. You know, we're going to see a lot more of that going forward. Okay. Jim flip-flops or tennis shoes.
Jim Weaver: Tennis shoes,
Robyn Bell: Quinn
Quinn Cason: tennis shoes.
Robyn Bell: Cause you're, you're a runner. You said you liked to run Nathan benderson park.
Quinn Cason: I do. I like my, my feet clothed with no danger
Jim Weaver: there so much exposure. You get too much gook onto your feet. Flip-flops.
Robyn Bell: Jeep with the top off or convertible sports car,
Jim Weaver: convertible sports car
Quinn Cason: Jeep
Robyn Bell: by Tennessee friend
Quinn Cason: go off-road mudding. Yes, I do enjoy it. I do.
Robyn Bell: I'm from Texas. We call it mutton mutton. It's not muddying, right? There's no geo that word. We're going to button. You know what? I can look at you and tell you that I would have pinned you there. Well, New York city, concrete friend.
Quinn Cason: It was like green acres, you know, where she loves park avenue in times square. That's you Jim? That's. Okay.
Jim Weaver: I'll own it.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, you were very well, my friend. Okay. Marvin Gaye or Diana Ross.
Jim Weaver: Diana Ross,
Quinn Cason: Diana Ross, all day. I will have to tell you backstage during Eubie, I not backstage in the dressing room. I am reading a 900 page biography on Diana Ross rereading. I read it once like 10 years ago and now I'm rereading it and her life is incredible.
Jim Weaver: It's this little Sparrow?
Quinn Cason: No, it's a little bit more salacious. One by Jay Randy. Taryn tele he's one of my favorite celebrity biographers. And so it gets the history, but it's also written very melodramatically where I'm like, okay, This is a little too dressy for me. I don't really believe this, but enough truth is there. I feel.
Robyn Bell: Well, I was in Chicago for a conference and I got in a night early, cause it started early the next morning and I was on that. I had flown in and I said, oh, what's this. I don't have nothing to do tonight in Chicago. What is it? Or do I saw Diana Ross was performing in Chicago and I said, no, seriously, there's no tickets left for this. And there were like three and I bought a ticket. It was fairly cheap. I remember maybe just $85 or something. Wow. Guys, the energy. Oh, my her daughter opened up for her. Her daughter has her own little band. Okay, and this was good. This is good. She came on stage and you could feel every pore full of electricity. And she started singing and everybody was just out of their chairs. It was amazing. She was specked and she had costume changes and that beautiful hair. And I said that, you know, the whole conference is going to be okay. This is the highlight of my trip. It was, it was amazing. And a spur of the moment thing all by myself.
Jim Weaver: And sometimes that's the best.
Robyn Bell: I was surrounded by everybody that was there to love the same thing that I was there for. It was, I can't tell you how great it was, like one of the best concert experiences of my whole life. So if you ever get a chance to go see her highly recommend $85, well spent, right? Yes. Done. No. Are you driving or like a rental car while you're here? Okay, good. And you're here now. So this is your last question. It's the one I ask everybody roundabouts or stop that.
Jim Weaver: Stoplight
Quinn Cason: stoplight all day.
Robyn Bell: You don't have to think you get to those roundabouts and be like, oh, who's going next. As my Tara
Jim Weaver: you're dodging this one that you got to get in the right lane, because I want to go all the way around. I want to go off and
Robyn Bell: people live like panic or anxiety issues. I don't know how they do it. Be finding a different route.
Jim Weaver: I think you got to stop in the middle of there's a pedestrian.
Robyn Bell: What are you doing here? Dang it well, congratulations, Jim and Quinn,
you are now officially part of the club. We will put a link to the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe website with specifics about Eubie. But tell us if folks wanted to follow your careers or like stalk you on social media, where can they find you?
Jim Weaver: Well, I'm on Facebook, but I also have a website, Jim weaver.biz.
Robyn Bell: All right. Dot biz. Love that. How about you Quinn?
Quinn Cason: I am on Instagram. Yes. The Quinny Quinn
Robyn Bell: Quinny quinn. Well, I'm gonna look that up. We'll put links to all of that in our show notes. So people can follow you and what you're doing. That's great. Well, the whole Suncoast is excited to see Eubie Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe's, current production about Eubie Blake, the father of black Broadway. It is running now through November 21st. And you can get your tickets by going to west coast, black theater.org, or by going to the calendar of events page on the Suncoast Culture Club podcast, website, Jim Weaver and Quinn Cason. And it has been such a pleasure getting to know you today. Congratulations on this remarkable production and thank you for taking the time to speak with me today.
Jim Weaver: thank you for having us.
Robyn Bell: Thank you, Robyn.