Urbanite Theatre, Sarasota’s downtown black-box theater, has focused since its beginnings on presenting new and recent work. The 2022-23 season, just announced, promises more of that, with two world premieres on the schedule, as well as other productions not glimpsed by local audiences before.
The overall season is titled “Heredity,” and explores the complexities of interpersonal family dynamics and heritage. “One could argue that the most powerful inspiration for compelling stories is the family unit,” said co-artistic director Brendan Ragan in a release about the coming season. He went on to add that the productions have “variety, cross-generational appeal and feature everything from zany comedy to heartfelt drama.”
The comedy is of a dark variety with the official season opener The Burdens, by Matt Schatz (running Oct. 21 through Nov. 27). Writer-composer Schatz centers on siblings Mordy and Jane and their problem: their difficult, centenarian grandfather is a "burden” on the family, and he just won’t die. Scheming mostly via text messages, they come up with an outrageous plan to solve that dilemma.
A softer, more tender father-daughter drama, Birds of North America by Anna Ouyang Moench, takes the stage Jan. 6 through Feb. 12, 2023. In this work, which received its world premiere in 2017, John and his daughter Caitlyn enjoy spending time together attempting to view elusive birds. But “as seasons, the climate and global politics change,” the two find their connection more fragile.
The world premiere of playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Backward Forwards Back (running March 24-April 23) tells the story of a soldier who must address his PTSD with virtual reality therapy or risk losing access to his family. It’s a one-man drama that studies the power of healing. (Goldfinger’s earlier work, Babel, about expectant parents facing a difficult decision, was presented a few years back at Florida Studio Theatre in a staged reading.)
The second world premiere, That Must Be the Entrance to Heaven, by Franky D. Gonzalez, is the first ever world premiere of a play commissioned by Urbanite. It follows four Latino boxers, all chasing a world title to achieve their personal versions of heaven. But they all have battles with themselves as well as each other they must fight to reach their dreams. Run dates for this play are June 9 through July 9 of next year.
In addition, Urbanite will also present a limited special engagement of actor-writer J. Elijah Cho’s Mr. Yunioshi, a comedic show about race in casting that takes off from Mickey Rooney’s infamous turn as a Japanese character in the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sept. 7-11. And the Modern Works Festival, a playwrighting contest for female writers, returns May 3-7, offering staged readings of three finalist plays. At the end of the festival, spearheaded by co-artistic director Summer Wallace, one winner will be named based on a vote by audiences, Urbanite staff and guest judges. Previous festival guests include Lauren Yee and Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok.
Tickets and subscriptions are now on sale at urbanitetheatre.com, or by phone at (941) 321-1397