Urbanite Theatre's Modern Works Festival Focuses on Plays by Women

The new festival takes place in early October and offers panels as well as staged readings.

By Kay Kipling September 24, 2018

Brooke Tyler Benson, participating as one of the performers for the Modern Works Festival.

In just a few years on the Sarasota theater scene, downtown’s Urbanite Theatre has already brought audiences a lot of regional premieres of new plays. Now the company is producing its first Modern Works Festival, Oct. 2-14, bringing three brand-new plays—all by women playwrights—to town in staged readings.

“It’s been a dream of mine to bring female and female identify artists together, to share our voices, stories, and inspire other artists with those voices,” says Summer Dawn Wallace, co-artistic director of Urbanite. “We love new work, and a reading festival was a great opportunity for us to meet new playwrights and provide further opportunities for women in the arts. It’s also a great opportunity to create a meaningful, long-term yearly festival. Our goal is to make this festival an important part of the national play development landscape.”

The three plays, chosen from nearly 100 full-length works from around the country submitted for the festival, were announced recently, followed by news about panel discussions touching on the issues of women in the theater. Here are the plays:

The Space in Between, by Mercedes White, billed as “an old-fashioned love story in a complicated, cross-cultural modern world.” The main character is Cameron, who has sworn off romance until a new upstairs neighbor turns her life upside down. This script, like the others, will be given a short rehearsal process with professional directors and actors before receiving four public performances (Oct. 2, 3, 4 and 5).

Stalking, by Jayne Hannah. This new work explores the history of a violent offender, George, who has served 27 years in prison. His therapist arranges a mysterious meeting that reveals George’s rehabilitation isn’t what he expects. Onstage Oct. 6, 7, 9, and 10.

The Violet Sisters, by Gina Femia. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Pam returns home to Brooklyn to make arrangements following her father’s death. She faces a fiery confrontation with her sister in this darkly humorous piece, onstage Oct. 11, 12, 13 and 14.

Megan Ianero, also performing in the festival.

At the conclusion of the festival, the artistic staff, with help from audience members, will select one playwright to receive a $5,000 grand prize for her new work.

Enhancing the festival will be four 60-minute Q&As with women working in American theater today, including recent Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Martyna Majok (Cost of Living), who also won the Greenfield Prize in 2018 (read more with Majok here). She’ll be on hand to talk about playwriting, at 8 p.m. Oct. 4.

Majok is followed by three industry professionals from the region: American Stage stage manager and sound designer Rachel Harrison, Urbanite Theatre production stage manager Amanda LaForge, and New College production manager Monica Cross, who form the panel for Women in Technical Theatre, at 5 p.m. Oct. 7.

American Stage’s artistic director, Stephanie Gularte, will address Women in Theatre Leadership, at 5 p.m. Oct. 10, and Asolo Rep’s longtime managing director, Linda DiGabriele, will answer questions on the same topic at 5 p.m. Oct. 12.

All panel discussions are free, but you must reserve tickets to secure your seats. For more info, call 321-1397 or go to


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