In 2014, Brendan Ragan, Summer Wallace, and Harry Lipstein shared a keen appreciation for the thriving cultural and arts scene in Sarasota, but all sensed a missing ingredient: professional, contemporary black-box theater in an intimate venue. The three founders announced plans to open Urbanite Theatre on June 14th, 2014, in a newly constructed theater. Urbanite Theatre was built as an addition to an existing office building in downtown Sarasota on 2nd Street, on a property purchased by Lipstein. Co-Artistic Directors Brendan Ragan and Summer Wallace, both recent graduates of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, spent the next 10 months planning and raising money for the new company, with a focus on bringing provocative new plays to Sarasota.
Opening in April of 2015, Urbanite's inaugural production, the United States premiere of Chicken Shop by Anna Jordan, was an extended, smash hit. After an inaugural season of three productions (also including the regional premieres of Reborning by Zayd Dohrn and Isaac's Eye by Lucas Hnath), Ragan and Wallace announced a four-show season for 2015-16, highlighted by another United States premiere by Anna Jordan, Freak.
Soon, four productions grew to five, and eventually six per season in 2017-18. That year, Urbanite staged the world premiere production of Naming True by Natalie Symons. Highlights from these years also include Bo-Nita by Elizabeth Heffron, Ideation by Aaron Loeb and an immersively designed Northside Hollow by Jonathan Fielding and Brenda Withers.
In 2018, in an effort to continue to level the playing field for female playwrights, Urbanite Theatre launched the first iteration of the Modern Works Festival, a playwriting contest, reading festival, and celebration of women in theater. In 2018 and 2019, guests would include Martyna Majok and Lauren Yee, and special solo performance by Roxanne Fay. The festival also fostered the growth of plays by Carey Crim, Marjorie Muller, Sam Collier, Mercedes White, Jayne Hannah and Gina Femia.
During the next two years, Urbanite Theatre enjoyed critical acclaim and record-setting box office figures for productions of Apples in Winter by Jennifer Fawcett, The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa FastHorse and Sender by Ike Holter, among others.
In March of 2020, Urbanite Theatre closed its doors after the opening night performance of The Feast by Cory Finley due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Unable to perform live productions in its intimate space, Urbanite Theatre continued to innovate. The theater partnered with Selby Gardens and The Hermitage Artist retreat to offer outdoor readings of new plays, they developed a fully-immersive experience for microaudiences, Safe House, by Brendan Ragan. And, the Modern Works Festival returned in a digital streaming format, won by Kamilah Bush's new script, Nick and the Prizefighter.
After 18 months without traditional, indoor theater, Urbanite Theatre returned to the stage in October of 2021 with Terry Guest's thrilling hit, At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen.
Today, Urbanite Theatre continues to produce thought-provoking, inclusive theater, written and performed by some of the best talent from around the United States. Urbanite Theatre provides a critical platform for new work, and has become a vital part of the Sarasota cultural industry.
Artistic Director: Brendan Ragan
Artistic Director: Summer Wallace
Production Stage Manager: Tori Heikenfeld
Master Carpenter: Gene Alcorn
Technical Supervisor: Alex Pinchin
Summer Dawn Wallace
Urbanite Theatre is committed to creating visceral, shared experiences by fearlessly lifting up the boldest new voices in theatre. We believe in inclusive, artist-first storytelling, daring honesty, and the powerful connectivity of an intimate space.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Len Goldberg, Board President
Jeffery Stevens, Board Treasurer
Jaime Still, Board Secretary
Summer Dawn Wallace
DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
Urbanite Theatre strongly believes that an effective workforce includes employees from different and diverse backgrounds and experiences that together form a more creative, innovative, and productive environment.
Urbanite Theatre recognizes that building an equitable, diverse and inclusive environment is the key ingredient to its relevance and sustainability in the community. Urbanite Theatre respects diversity within human qualities and these qualities include but are not limited to: ethnicity, race, color, and country of origin, sex, gender, age, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, beliefs, political affiliations, socioeconomic status, experiences and any form of disability.
Urbanite Theatre strives to create a culture of inclusion where employees of diverse human qualities can thrive and succeed and are able to participate in, and contribute to, the progress and success of the theatre, while growing both professionally and personally.
Discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated in Urbanite Theatre, and any reported instances will be grounds for immediate refusal of service.
At Urbanite Theatre, we believe in radical acceptance, relentless inclusion, and the unwavering support of vulnerable communities.
Urbanite Theatre would like to acknowledge the indigenous communities native to this region by recognizing that we gather today on the unceded ancestral land of the Calusa and Seminole people, past and present. We honor with gratitude the land itself and the people who have stewarded it throughout the generations.