In its fourth season, Urbanite Theatre explores a variety of theatrical styles — and unlikely human connections.
This summer, Urbanite Theatre will enter its fourth season. From June to May, the black-box theater company will offer six plays, in a variety of theatrical styles, telling character-driven stories around a central theme: improbable connections.
It’s a through line Co-Artistic Directors Brendan Ragan and Summer Dawn Wallace didn’t seek. It developed during the programming process.
“We don’t set out with a theme from the start,” says Ragan. “This emerged along the way. This season has a lot of theatrical styles — it’s not fourth-wall realism all the time. We want to challenge people in different ways, but the plays all complement one another, and they all deal with this theme of unlikely relationships.”
June 2 through July 2
Playwright Natalie Symons, who acted in Urbanite’s “Reborning,” returns with the world premiere of her play, directed by Daniel Kelly. “Naming True” follows Amy, a transgender teen from Seattle who finds herself in a Florida motel room with Nell, a dying woman from the streets of Detroit. Together, they plan to publish Nell’s memoirs.
“Right away, the characters were so lifelike,” says Wallace. “Collaborating with Symons was a huge appeal. We’re about six drafts in now, and we start rehearsals shortly.”
“This story and the relationship between these two characters really reflects human struggles and triumphs,” says Ragan.
Aug. 4 through Sept. 10
Relationships don’t get much more improbable than a soldier and a teenage girl quarantined on a luxury spaceship en route to colonize a newly discovered planet. The two characters and their antiquated robot companion eventually cut through small talk and distractions and find themselves forced to confront their painful pasts.
Fans of the dystopian anthology series “Black Mirror”will enjoy a similar look at the perks and pitfalls of technology in the future.
“Pilgrims,” written by Claire Kiechel, will enjoy its regional premiere with guest director Carl Forsman, and Ragan will act the part of the soldier.
“My roles are typically gregarious, effusive and sarcastic,” he says. “This will be a nice challenge because the soldier is much more in his head and closed-off — it’s all in the subtext.”
‘White Rabbit Red Rabbit’
Oct. 25 through Nov. 5
Urbanite Theatre asks its patrons to trust the theater and take risks on new, unfamiliar works.
Now, the tables are turned. Urbanite takes a risk in this collaboration with Ringling International Arts Festival. A play is sealed in an envelope. The lone performer each night has never read the script, let alone rehearsed it. Each of the 10 performances features a new actor, including Ragan, Wallace and Harry Lipstein.
“It’s terrifying,” says Wallace. “As an actor, you do cold readings, but I’ve never done anything like this. You don’t have time to think — you just have to make a decision and go with it.”
Nov. 17 through Dec. 17
Written by Henry Naylor and directed by Ragan, the regional premiere of “Echoes” follows two women, Tillie and Samira. Born 175 years apart, their parallel stories, set in Afghanistan and Syria, are eerily similar, both dealing with tragedy, war and oppression.
“It’s a theatrical format we rarely see,” says Ragan. “It’s a challenge. It’s essentially two parallel one-woman shows. They’re on the same stage, but they don’t interact or have one another to draw from.”
Jan. 26 through March 11, 2018
Wallace directs the regional premiere of this play by Jonathan Fielding and Brenda Withers about a coal miner, trapped and injured underground, and his less-than-urgent first responder. Waiting for more help, they forge a connection.
“This is a challenge for the actors,” says Wallace. “It literally unfolds in a coal mine, so there aren’t a lot of places for the characters to go. The script also calls for the stage to be lit by audiences wearing headlamps. We’re considering it, but either way, this will be an immersive play.”
‘Women Laughing Alone with Salad’
April 6 through May 6, 2018
The title says it all. Sheila Callaghan’s play references an internet meme that compiles stock photography of, well, women laughing alone with salad. Similar to yogurt and shampoo commercials, the advertising technique, when put in the spotlight, becomes ridiculous.
Similarly, Callaghan’s raucous, challenging comedy stares unafraid at society’s unreasonable expectations of women and their bodies — and of our collective complacency in its face.