Two FSU/Asolo Conservatory grads are co-founding and co-artistic directing a new Urbanite Theater, bringing “contemporary playgoing opportunities” to downtown Sarasota . What makes Summer Wallace and Brendan Ragan's venture so different? A real estate developer is constructing a theater for them to show actor-driven exciting, fresh work.

By April 2015, the building should be up. The black box theater has been rented for $1 a year for 5 years. Fund-raising will equip it in time, it is hoped, for a fall 2015 opening.

The co-directors each have relevant professional experience. Summer Wallace spent a year in New York working after graduation in 2012. Before that, she acted regionally and toured the U. S. performing bluegrass music. She currently teaches part time in two Sarasota high schools.

Brendan Ragan was a major founder of and actor at Single Carrot Theater in Baltimore prior to earning his Asolo Conservatory MFA in 2013. He worked in the Tampa Bay Area and returned to Sarasota last year as he toured An Iliad to acclaim. He also does professional photography.

Urbanite Theater means to provide an intimate (50-to-70 seat) venue Sarasota now lacks. With professionally directed and acted, cutting-edge performances—the “kind that hit you”, according to Wallace--it aims to attract new, especially young, audiences along with regulars. Seats should run an affordable $20.

Ragan describes what he sees as typical ticket-buyers: a “t-shirt and jeans crowd” who come in casually as part of an evening out as they do in London. The downtown location will make the theater part of a social scene.

With casts of five or less, Urbanite will not only do contemporary pieces but little-known classics. Wallace says local playwrights' works will be considered as well, though they're not among the first three already chosen. Each staging should be five weeks or so. Urbanite has received about 600 submissions.

There'll be an educational component to Urbanite, aiming to shape future actors and audiences. Maybe the space will be occupied at most hours. There's room in the upstairs area plan for providing snacks and drinks but possible sales of them would not take effect until later. No matter, Summer Wallace is sure of hook-ups with local bars and restaurants.

Wallace's husband Grant Herren will help as Urbanite's volunteer accountant, a position he holds professionally as his full-time “dream job” in the area. Right now he's an Urbanite booster as the not-for-profit group pursues developmental activities.


Key Subjects: 
Urbanite Theater, Sarasota, FL, Summer Wallace
Marie J. Kilker
Urbanite Theater’s new home is at 1487 Second Street, Sarasota, FL 34236. It may be reached at 941-321-1397.
January 2015