Urbanite Theatre, the small downtown company that has forged a reputation for presenting new works by an interesting range of playwright voices, has announced its upcoming sixth season.
While co-artistic directors Brendan Ragan and Summer Wallace stress that they don’t start out planning a season with a theme in mind, Ragan says, “As we respond to what moves and excites us, we wait for a theme to present itself. And this season, the shows are all about investigating identities in some way.”
And, for these graduates of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory, sometimes the chance to work with fellow grads or current students presents itself, too. “This season it worked out for some students to have the opportunity to flex their acting muscles outside the classroom,” says Wallace.
Case in point: Current student Bonita Jackson will appear as a college student in Eleanor Burgess’ The Niceties, a regional premiere onstage May 31 through June 30. Her character, Zoe, is called into her professor’s office to discuss her paper about slavery’s effect on the American Revolution. The meeting explodes into an urgent debate about race, history and power. The Niceties had its world premiere at Huntington Theater Company in Boston, followed by an off-Broadway run and other regional productions.
And fellow Conservatory student Amber McNew solos in another regional premiere, Stacey Gregg’s Scorch, which will be directed by Wallace and runs July 26 through Aug. 25. Inspired by a true story, Scorch introduces us to Kes, a gender-curious teen who falls in love for the first time online. But the fantasy turns into a terrifying accusation of criminal conduct. The play has been shown at various fringe festivals, including the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and won the Irish Times Theatre Award for Best New Play in 2015.
Urbanite brings back its Modern Works Festival, a playwrighting contest, reading festival and celebration of women in the arts, Oct. 8-13 after its debut last year. A collection of staged readings of new works will be presented, and one writer will win an honorarium for her work. A female playwright TBA will join the event, and actress Roxanne Fay (who scored rave reviews in this season’s Apples in Winter) will perform a new solo play as a special festival addition.
Coming up in November is Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play, which asks the question: Is it possible for a troupe of all-white teaching artists to create a culturally sensitive pageant to celebrate Native American Heritage Month? Urbanite describes this work as “subversive, absurd and endearing." It runs Nov. 8 through Dec. 15—the start to the holiday season.
Ragan will direct the next show of the season, Ike Holter’s Sender. Sender is the third part of Holter’s seven-play “Rightlynd Saga” set in a fictional Chicago neighborhood. This piece, onstage Jan. 10 through Feb. 16, is a dark comedy that begins when a man shows up in his former Chicago apartment a year after his assumed death, ready to fix what went wrong with the people who have mourned him.
And the final announced play, Cory Finley’s The Feast, mixes comedy, mystery and the macabre in its look at the relationship of Matt and Anna, which seems to be blooming until the sewers under the apartment begin to speak. The Feast was produced by the Flea Theater in 2015, and Finley was the inaugural recipient of the Gurney Playwrights Fund. It takes the stage here March 13 through April 19.
Call 321-1397 or go to urbanitetheatre.com for ticket info about the coming season.