After 18 months of thought provoking time and pent-up creative energy , Urbanite Theatre is back with "Radiance." Committed to creating visceral, shared experiences by fearlessly lifting up the boldest new voices in theatre, Urbanite Theatre believes in inclusive, artist-first storytelling, daring honesty, and the powerful connectivity of an intimate space...and this season has all of that.
They begin their 8th season with a $300,000 fundraising initiative to assist in the move to a 5-day work week, raising of minimum wage, all actors being paid at Equity Union scale, and interns earning a decent living, all of which will bring us a better theatre experience, while ensuring actors of all backgrounds get a fair shake in the business.
Hear Brendan Ragan and Summer Dawn Wallace share their vision of the business side of Urbanite Theatre and the excitement of producing four incredible plays this season.
All that and more on this week's episode of the Suncoast Culture Club. Come along and join the club!
• Urbanite Theatre Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• freeFall Theatre Website & Facebook & Instagram & Twitter
• Tsunami Website & Facebook & Instagram
• Florida Studio Theatre Website & Facebook & Instagram & YouTube
• Circo: A Taco & Bourbon Joint Website & Facebook & Instagram
• 99 Bottles Taproom and Bottle Shop Website & Facebook & Instagram
• SCF Theatre Program Website & Facebook Page & Instagram
Support the show (https://scf-foundation.org/suncoastcultureclub/)
Robyn Bell: Today, I'm on location at one of my favorite spots on the Suncoast Urbanite Theater joined by co-founders Summer Dawn Wallace and Brendan Ragan who are going to tell us about Urbanites upcoming season and the fundraising campaign they've initiated to help with the cost of changing from business as usual. to business businesses unusual here at Urbanite. Summer, and Brendan, welcome back to the club.
Brendan Ragan: Welcome to Urbanite Theatre thanks for coming here.
Summer Dawn Wallace: Thank you for coming in and thank you for this opportunity to talk about what we're doing
Robyn Bell: As many times. If I've actually seen a show here, I had just turned a corner and came up some steps. And I see now where all the magic happens.
Brendan Ragan: That's right. This is our administrative office, which very occasionally. Find and think as the theater and come in, looking for
Robyn Bell: where's the show,
Brendan Ragan: it's like just, just offices in here.
Robyn Bell: It's nice though, to have an office space so close to the theater. I'm sure that's very, very helpful. Did this come with the original deal?
Summer Dawn Wallace: No, we got very lucky. And when we also have a rehearsal. Next door that is right above the theater. But we kind of grew out of that space. We were kind of using it for an office and rehearsal hall, but we really needed a permanent office space and then happened to start that search. And then I discovered this next one and I was like, what? This is a dream come true. Yeah. And at first I thought it was a total joke. And then when I told everybody I found us an office, are you ready? It's right next door.
Robyn Bell: things are just meant to be. Well, I feel privileged to be here I can just feel the wheels spinning and in an energy of the brain power between the two of you. Now we should say that each of you have your very own Suncoast Culture Club podcast, episode, Brendan, you are season one, episode 25. And Summer don't feel bad, but your season one episode 51, I think there was just a scheduling thing. So if anybody out there, yeah. If anybody out there wants to know the date details of your lives and career and how Urbanite got it start, they can listen to those podcasts. But today we want to take a deep dive on your upcoming season and this awesome fundraising campaign you started. And the why behind that. So let's start there, paint the picture for us of what life was like at Urbanite pre pandemic and how. Fundraising campaign $300,000 ask from our community is going to make life look different here on the Urbanite campus.
Brendan Ragan: So I will say that life at Urbanite Theatre before the pandemic looked like life at 99.9% of professional theaters in the country. So
Robyn Bell: that's how you knew how to do it,
Brendan Ragan: right? That was the industry standard. And it was not unusual in the way that we were conducting business. So it's important to point that out. We weren't some monsters who are asking people to work extraordinary amounts. Well,
Robyn Bell: I didn't know any different way. That's just how you do it. It's tech week and you better work a hundred hours.
Brendan Ragan: That's how we've always done it. Right? So that looked like six days a week. Work instead of five, that looked like long tech hours. It looked like a slightly shorter rehearsal period. So things were a bit more urgent. And like you said, when tech hub. You're running out of time often and therefore working long nights, but we often wear that as a badge of honor. And in theaters, there's this urgency culture of like the show must go on and that can be charming, I think, and fun and exciting. But when you extrapolate that over many shows over many months, over many years, it's actually really, really difficult, and it can be very hard on your administrators and your technicians and your actors and everybody. So that's what life looked like before. We're changing a lot of those things. So we're going to have a five day work week now,
Robyn Bell: now, typically Mondays are dark anyway. So is this going to be Tuesday through Saturday or Wednesday? Okay.
Brendan Ragan: Yes. Tuesday through Saturday, and then our performances are Wednesday through Sunday. Depending on, you know, if we're in rehearsals or performances, it's different days, but it's five days a week. There's a real weekend for, everyone. And you can have a life and go to the bank and do your laundry and you don't have to do it all on. So
Summer Dawn Wallace: that goes for administrative team as well. Sure. There's shifting. Yeah. Perhaps Monday through Friday, but the point is we also want to give that team two days off in a row as well. And in rehearsal often you would get one day off. But just similar to kind of teachers. And as we all know, the work doesn't kind of end. The second rehearsal gets out or your classroom time gets out, actors are learning lines and directors are working on things and there's other meetings that happening. So now. There's time for an actor to maybe to spend some time kind of working on their lines or anything. They want to go over for rehearsal. But then the, as Brendan said, they also have time to do laundry,
Robyn Bell: right?
Summer Dawn Wallace: Take a nap, get some rest, go to the grocery store. So they come back to rehearsal or performance like refreshing,
Robyn Bell: and the invention of email changed our world. Life anyway, because yeah, it was a five day work week, but you never get away if you don't force yourself to step away.
Brendan Ragan: Right. And now clearly, you know, when you're in startup mode and you're feeling entrepreneurial and you're feeling like every little bit of work that I do is good for my company because it's getting something done and we're building, it's really easy to work every single day and answer emails when they come. And, when you're constantly moving schedules around and you're working six days a week, anyway, it just kind of feels like you're always on. Yeah. So this helps us more clearly define which days that we're off and which days that were on and which days rehearsals are happening in which days administrative work is happening. And for a lot of organizations who are not in the arts. This might be chaotic, but that's the nature of theater is that it has an administrative side of your company and it has an artistic side of the company and they, operate independently of each other. So when both are happening at once, it does tend to sometimes feel like you're a seven day a week organization. And we're trying to. Clean that up a little bit. So those are some of the changes. Some of the other changes are that we're now leveling the playing field between non-equity and equity contracts, which is the union status of actors. So we're just going to offer everybody the same right off the bat.
Robyn Bell: So let's define that for, let's say we got a, senior in high school listening has no idea what we're talking about.
Brendan Ragan: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Equity is the union for actors.
Brendan Ragan: Yes. Actors equity association equity for short.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And if you're in that and you've gotten in that by being in so many performances and correct me if I'm wrong, cause I'm just a musician, but you have to earn your card.
Brendan Ragan: You're getting used to you used to they've changed that there was a big change recently, which sort of precipitated this thinking on our behalf. In that, yes, you used to have to earn a certain number of weeks, and now if you have ever worked any professional contract ever, you can now join through what equity calls, the open access program. And so you just have to pay your initiation fee and you can be.
Robyn Bell: And so if you're actors' equity, you are guaranteed a salary scale here.
Summer Dawn Wallace: They have different minimums depending on the different contracts that the theaters might be utilizing. And then often, sometimes those contracts also come with health weeks as well.
Robyn Bell: And if you're not an actor's equity, then you as an organization or Asolo, or whoever. You don't have to pay those performers that the same rate
Brendan Ragan: literally make up whatever rate you want, that someone signs on the dotted line for, you could say. $5 for your entire run of the shows. And if the non-union performer thinks that's a good rate, then they'll take it,
Robyn Bell: sign me up. I'll do it for 4 95.
Brendan Ragan: Right. Right. And that's the problem is that. Theaters are really putting a lot of pressure on those non-equity performers to take contracts below market rate, because there's a line of a hundred actors behind them who all really want that job. So rather than do that, we're saying, all right, from a salary point of view, The initial contract offer is the same for us. So we just leveled the playing field. So there's no like, oh, well we have to pay the equity member more, which means we get to pay the non-union person far less. And we have. Very very similar. There has not
Robyn Bell: been too far apart.
Brendan Ragan: , but now it's just, we're just starting at the same.
Summer Dawn Wallace: And we're also we should point out that we've been paying above that particular contract that we're under with equity. We've been paying above that minimum.
Robyn Bell: Fantastic. That's fair. That's really great. And that's a really great opportunity for young upcoming actors to be able to earn the same amount of money for the same amount of time and effort that they're putting in. So what a novel concept, if I could clap, I would all add the clapping sound.
Brendan Ragan: The last thing that we're doing, that's making a big change is that it's very common in the theater industry too. Have your first professional experience be either an internship or an apprentice. Ship with a professional theater, sometimes those pay, sometimes they don't, sometimes they pay a little bit. Sometimes they just give you housing. Sometimes they give you housing and no pay. I mean, there's not always a universal standard for those programs for theaters across the country. Some theaters only have a couple of interns a year, some have 30 or 40, so those can wildly vary. And when they don't pay. Close to a living wage or respectable hourly wage. What ends up happening is that. Folks from a certain background are the only ones eligible for the program. Meaning if you have wealth or parental support or family help, you can take those jobs on that only pay you a hundred dollars a week and you can find your way into theater because you've got systems of support. There are many people who don't and from an equity, diversity and inclusion point of view, the way that we can help diversify our industry and give everyone the same type of opportunity is to raise that apprenticeship and internship pay to $15 an hour. So, you know, our interns are not going to be working 40 hours a week, but when they're here, they're going to be paid a living wage rather than just get the credit or just get, you know, a slightly lower, hourly wage. And we were always paying them before, but we've just raised that up to what the Florida minimum wage is gonna be. What two or three years anyway,
Robyn Bell: right? Yeah. Really smart and proactive. I call it, cause at the college we have this, you know, like these student interns and or people that are all work study and it's like child labor, you know, nobody would do it for that amount.
Brendan Ragan: Right.
Robyn Bell: And, okay, you're getting your experiential learning. That's the big fancy term now. But as you say, there's only a certain number of people. Certain kind of person really that can afford to do that and still keep moving forward in this business. Be it acting or even musicians is the exact same way. So I totally know what you're talking about.
Brendan Ragan: Yeah. And this is unusual. I should point out. Really only a couple of theaters in America are doing these types of things to level the playing field across the board for their staves and their artists. And we're taking a big cue from, center stage in Baltimore, who was one of the sort of flag bearers of these kinds of changes. And we're responding to calls in the industry from people of color, from artists who haven't had the opportunity to. Hey, the gatekeeping is too hard for us to get in. We can't enter the industry and we don't have the same opportunities. And then therefore we're not eligible for other jobs. In theaters above that. So really the entry point for changing the industry starts at this small level. It starts at the intern and apprentice level
Robyn Bell: Summer. I can see how this relates, because if you then go back to the other business as usual model where you're working on so many out six days a week, and they're not getting paid equitably. They don't have time to even hold a job at Whole Foods or
Summer Dawn Wallace: . If you don't pay a fair working wage and you're also working X amount of hours, how do you supplement that income? And not only just with interns and apprentices, but any over-hire, that's a starting point for us is $15 an hour. And that's a move that we made during the pandemic. When we were paying front of house box office and he, over-hire kind of helping us with our outdoor reading series that we were doing particularly to the pandemic when it was hard enough to find work, period. That's kind of a shift that we made and that's a starting point.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Now let's see, I am one of these people that need a job. Can I go on Urbanites website? You have your post, all your job openings there we do.
Brendan Ragan: Yeah. You click on opportunities and that's where. Full-time jobs. If we have them, we'll be listed. And there's also a form to sign up, to be a volunteer if you'd like, and the intern applications are there. So yeah, that's the place to go.
Robyn Bell: Now, the pandemic it's been horrible on many different levels, but. The time. It has afforded some of us to really stop and think and to put our creative energy and juices to work. Like for me, this podcast was totally a growth is, would never have happened if it weren't for the pandemic. But you know, to put these ideas to work in a different way and an organization like Urbanite to come out of it saying, this is how we can do this better for all involved. Is this been kind of an unexpected blessing or were you thinking about this before the pandemic.
Summer Dawn Wallace: I think a lot of these shifts were shifts that we had wanted to make and things that we were kind of percolating on and thinking about how we could improve kind of our working system. And for a long time, we were really pushing ourselves to have the theater open as many nights as possible. So we started doing overlap. That meant we were rehearsing during the day, while another show was performing at night, to make sure that during season we could, you had to show in the show tickets as possible. And then when the pandemic came, it was kind of a forced slow down and it made us kind of re-examine. Yes. That schedule was bringing in additional income to the company, but at what cost at what cost of burning the teams out was it that much additional revenue where it made sense? And so that kind of made us re-examine the schedule and thinking about diversity and inclusion. How could we do better for our team members? Because without our artists and our team, that's what makes it, yeah. Special. Right. So you know, we were already bringing up our pay scales and not something that like each year we were trying to improve upon was a standard livable wage. And kind of the big jump this year was we had the opportunity to say, well, what kind of theater maker do we want to be? And what kind of company do we want to be? And so. Let's just do it now. And a part of our fundraising campaign is why our goal is higher than it has ever been. That's also some other initiatives that's going to help us throughout the year, but that was why the decision was to make that time now, so the ideas were there, but I think kind of push over the cliff.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. The impetus was the pandemic,
Summer Dawn Wallace: the pandemic.
Robyn Bell: Totally. Now I understand we've got this $300,000 campaign. Did I see. On social media, you're like really close, like $8,000 away. Did I see something like that about that or what that,
Brendan Ragan: what you saw was that we were, if we admit we're not, yeah, we're doing really well. Yeah, no, we're not $8,000.
Robyn Bell: What did I see
Brendan Ragan: you saw was that the Gulf Coast Community Foundation gave us one of their COVID response initiative grants, which was a challenge grant of $50,000. So they were helping us raise our first.
Robyn Bell: So you were like at 42,000,
Brendan Ragan: correct?
Robyn Bell: You get the other eight, you get that matching 50.
Brendan Ragan: So yes. Yes. So we have since met the match plus done a little more. Generally, thank you. Thank you. Thank you to the almost geez, 200 or so people who've helped us out so far. We're somewhere in the 120, 130 neighborhood right now.
Robyn Bell: It's halfway there.
Brendan Ragan: Yeah. We're you know, which is pretty good considering that this is only donation. Till July 1st. So it's been, it's been two full months, essentially out of 12. So we know we've got a lot of work to do throughout the rest of the year to hit $300,000. But our supporters have been really incredible out of the gate. Which was the question, you know, we didn't do any hardcore fundraising throughout the pandemic. We felt like we weren't in operations as normal. There were other causes in the world that were really important. And so when we. Let's open these flood gates and see if you know, our supporters are still there by and large, they are, which is fantastic. So we've got some more work to do throughout the year and we'll get it.
Robyn Bell: You know, I didn't realize when I first saw the initiative for the $300,000. Fundraising challenge. I didn't even pay attention to the timeframe. I just thought, oh, they're going to raise $300,000. And then when I dug in deeper, I saw you've given yourself a whole year to do it, which was really smart. I mean, cause it just cracked that nut just a little bit every month. Really, really smart. Now Linda and I, , we're going to buy our season tickets like we do every year. And I don't pay attention to the prices. I just here you, but in addition to raising money, are the ticket prices increasing to help offset this cost as well?
Summer Dawn Wallace: We have raised them $3,
Robyn Bell: $3,
Summer Dawn Wallace: which was something that we battled back and forth a long time. But it's part of our mission statement is to keep theater affordable and so by raising our ticket prices significantly, we felt that one against mission and that goes against who can actually afford to come see a show.
Robyn Bell: So if you don't buy a season ticket, if you just buy a single ticket to a show, what is the cost?
Brendan Ragan: $36.
Robyn Bell: So it was 33.
Brendan Ragan: Yeah. For some shows. And for some, I think it was 32, depending on the time of year, but we just made all the shows 36, 30 years. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Do you have like the college? We encourage our students to go to events. Do you have student price tickets?
Summer Dawn Wallace: Oh yes. $5 student tickets, $5 all the time. So you can come to openings. For $5, you can come to closing for $5. It's not a, special weekend. It's not a one day a month at any point in time.
Robyn Bell: If it's not sold out,
Summer Dawn Wallace: if it's not sold out. And if it is sold out, come to the theater a half an hour early, get on the standby list. It is highly possible that you will still get in to see the show.
Robyn Bell: Well, my most important question, the one that means the most to me. Is with all of this, you know, raising of the money and spending it on this and this and that. Will I still get my free glass of wine?
Brendan Ragan: You know, here's the question. Here's the question. So right now at Urbanite, we're requiring all attendees, regardless of vaccination status to wear a mask,
Robyn Bell: how do you drink your wine with your mask?
Brendan Ragan: Precisely. So as long as we have the mandate that everyone needs to be wearing a mask, we're not going to be serving the wine, but if we all do our part to slow the. And the numbers get better. We will serve the wine again.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Well, I'll look forward to that day.
Brendan Ragan: You'll have to get a glass of wine, you know?
Robyn Bell: Or afterwards, because if I have it ahead of time, like more than I really normally would, I would never would sleep through any of your shows. Don't get me wrong, but I do get a little and it's
Brendan Ragan: dead lights are dark and you're cozy and you feel good? You're in a theater. Yeah, no, I understand that
Summer Dawn Wallace: when I was in London, I fell asleep in three shows because I had a glass of wine and it was so cozy
Brendan Ragan: and big news. For those of you who have wanted an earlier start. We have changed our curtain
Summer Dawn Wallace: Drum roll
Brendan Ragan: from 8:00 PM to 7:30 PM.
Robyn Bell: Really? Every show or cause like a Friday, Saturday night, you could still do eight.
Brendan Ragan: No,
Robyn Bell: keep it consistent
Brendan Ragan: 7:30 across the board. It makes more sense for everybody. You know, Sarasota is not a real nightlife kind of town. I mean, there's some, there's some chorus, it's a little bit of a sleepy town. However, being out just a little bit. Does give you a chance to go have a drink after, and I don't think it impedes your ability to have a drink before or dinner or anything like that. So I think it works out for people who want to go to bed earlier and it works out for people who want to stay out after a show, right. Better. So, yeah, 7:30.
Robyn Bell: We're not big fans of going and eating a big meal and then sitting through a show. So we like that, you know, sometimes like um, Florida Studio Theater even does six o'clock shows. And those are great because you can hit right out. But our typical Urbanite date night as we call it is we start at the theater and then we walked a Tsunami and we have a late dinner at Tsunami. They treat us so great there,
Brendan Ragan: shout out to Tsunami. We love them. They've always been really great to us as well.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And then I noticed when I parked and came over today, I didn't even know this, that little taco and bourbon place. So yeah. That's pretty good. You had your tacos.
Summer Dawn Wallace: They're great. And then you've got 99 Bottles which is great to go have a glass of wine or champagne or yeah. And they've got a bite snacks too.
Robyn Bell: So are these places working with you? Like, okay, great. So if I buy a ticket, I might get a 10% discount or a free app or something like that.
Brendan Ragan: We used to have this restaurant program that had a number six or seven restaurants that all had. You show your ticket and you get a little bit. What we have not done is returned to all those theaters. Since the pandemic started and said, Hey, you still want to do this. Cause you know, restaurants have had it hard too. And, and some of them may not be interested, but we're going to work to get that program back on its feet because all of these restaurants and bars have been so great to us throughout I'm, hopeful that there'll be back.
Summer Dawn Wallace: And with the 7:30 start time there's an opportunity for food post to show, right? Which often kind of an 8:00show didn't allow for.
Robyn Bell: That's very true. Do you have some matinees? Do you do like a Sunday, man? No,
Summer Dawn Wallace: we do a Sunday matinee and this season we're also adding an additional matinee. So we'll have a Saturday matinee.
Robyn Bell: Very good. I think people really like that. Yeah. That's a great idea.
Brendan Ragan: And special doing on Saturday matinees on the select Saturday matinees right now. It's every other is that we're going to do half capacity, Saturday matinee.
Robyn Bell: Oh, for like social distancing.
Brendan Ragan: Yeah. It's not going to be a perfect six foot distance for every seat, but we're limiting the capacity in the whole entire theater to 30 people. So it's actually a little bit less than half capacity, but half capacity, Saturday has a better ring. 40% capacity or
Robyn Bell: half cap,
Brendan Ragan: half cap. Yeah, half cap Sat, mat.
Robyn Bell: Nice.
Brendan Ragan: If you're feeling like, you really want to see the shows and you feel good about wearing a mask and you're feeling good about your vaccination status, but you want just a little more room between people and you want the overall capacity be around 30 people. We've got performances for you as well.
Robyn Bell: So let me ask this because you said 30 people, it's not quite half. What is your capacity? And I know it kind of depends on how the show is set up, but what is like been your largest crowd you could have there?
Summer Dawn Wallace: Most it's like from 65 to about 72, cause we're kind of, most of our performances land we have had once 81. But that was for one show out of it. All of the shows that we've done. So usually it's about 65 to 72, depending on the seating configuration, which those of you who've been to Urbanite know that we change it constantly. For those of you who have never been to the theater. I hope you're coming this fall, but we do change the seating configuration around quite a bit.
Robyn Bell: No, the only other place that I have been to in this area that does that kind of thing is Free Fall because they kind of took over that church. And did I read that you guys are kind of teaming up with them on one of your shows?
Brendan Ragan: Yeah, this is such an exciting collaboration. So we haven't got to the season yet. So this is a bit of a spoiler. Is that the third show in our season we're doing is called A Skeptic and a Bruja by Rosa Fernandez. And we're going to be producing that in collaboration with Free-fall Theater. Yeah, you're right. Like there's not a lot of theaters who do what we do in terms of their seating, but they have a configuration that's actually very similar to one of ours. They have a few more seats in theirs and their rows go back a little further, but the size of the stage is, comparable and we can make it work. So what we're going to do is we're all gonna work together on creating this. It's going to run an Urbanite Theater. First, it's going to have a full run here just like normal. And then the cast, the crew, the costumes, the set, everything's going to move up to St. Pete and have another run up there, which is just such an incredible opportunity for the people in this region. But also everyone, all the artists involved well
Robyn Bell: smarter than now, I'm sure they had to take some financial planning. Who's going to pay for what and marketing and all this was that. Well back and forth.
Brendan Ragan: So easy,
Summer Dawn Wallace: very, very easy. The Free-fall team is just as excited about the play we are. And so we're kind of like doing it together so that way it'll cut the expenses in half as well. So there's a financial benefit for both companies and then the it's a world premier. So it'll be a rolling world, premier. So we'll have it here first and then it'll go on to the other theater.
Robyn Bell: And when I looked at your season lineup, you're doing four plays and that, one is the third play. And we'll talk more in depth about it in just a minute. But what I noticed was it seems to be your shows are running longer. You're stretching the season out.
Brendan Ragan: Yeah, a couple of them are a week longer than normal. And there's a little more space between shows. This is something Summer was hinting at before in that we would overlap our processes in the past so that the downtime between shows was shorter. We're rebuilding our staff. We're coming back to work. We're trying not to overwork everyone. Who's going to be here this year. So there is a little more space than usual between the shows. And yet we still have three productions that fit nicely into that snowbird. Seasonal resident kind of season, and then we've got the fourth show that's kind of creeping into next summer, but it's not that different.
Robyn Bell: So then are you still going to be able to do your Modern Works Festival?
Brendan Ragan: Great question.
Summer Dawn Wallace: Great question. So in the past.our Modern Works Festival has come in the fall. It's been in October. And then this past year, because of COVID, we took it online. So it was kind of a late spring. So it will be coming back in 2022, 2023, but just cause we just did the Modern Works Festival. We're kind of giving ourselves some time so that we can plan and get all that geared up again. So it'll be happening, but not in this season, but in next season,
Robyn Bell: Great. Well, that really brings us to, can we just kind of take a deep dive here into the four plays that we're going to be seeing this year? I mean, you should see my phone on my text thread. I have this group of people that we all have the Urbanite we're like your biggest fans. We have pom-poms and, and, you know, we're these little giggly things, we go Urbanite Urbanite and it was like, oh, you're getting your tickets. Are you getting your tickets? And so
Summer Dawn Wallace: and I know this, I need to give you some Urbanite swag.
Robyn Bell: I didn't bring you anything.
Brendan Ragan: That's okay.
Robyn Bell: I made some Suncoast Culture Club, bumper stickers, and I haven't given a single one out yet. So I'll have to put one.
Brendan Ragan: Well, we'll give you some Urbanite stickers and hats for your text chain crew
Robyn Bell: talking about was just this amazing lineup of this coming season and how excited we are. I mean, we read Jay Hanselman's article in Sunday's paper. So we started at the end of October with Terry Guest's play At the Wake of the Dead Drag Queen is such an intriguing title. So tell us about the show and what we can expect to see.
Summer Dawn Wallace: So one of the things and kind of coming back with our season that we were really thinking about is what kind of plays did we want our audiences to see? We've just been in this very interesting can't even say a year anymore, 18 months. So we wanted a programming that was still very Urbanite. It still had a message still made you think still started conversations how could we also make it fun? And so I'm At the Wake of a Drag Queen. It's exactly what you think you happen to be at the wake of a drag queen. So what seems would be, you know, a very sad subject is also done in this lovely, beautiful way you meet these young men from Georgia that are also dealing with the HIV and aids crisis. What it's like growing up in this. As a person of color and also navigating being a member of the LGBT community. And it also has drag shows and drag numbers and all of that fun that comes along with it. If anybody's been to a drag show or not, it's time to come and experience that art. And, and then we have a an amazing director Damien Lockhart, who is based out of Atlanta. So he's from the south originally. So
Robyn Bell: totally gets this
Summer Dawn Wallace: totally gets the world of this play. We've just assembled the cast. One of the actors understudied the world premiere. So it's an amazing, incredible cast. And, I encourage coming to the theater and your most fun outfit. Well,
Robyn Bell: we can dress up.
Summer Dawn Wallace: Yes, ma'am you may,
Brendan Ragan: you can come and drag too, if you want.
Robyn Bell: All right. I'll just have to run to the Goodwill, but I would, that seems like a nice little challenge. How many people are in this cast?
Summer Dawn Wallace: It is two actors.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Well, we're very excited about that one. The title is fantastic. You're I think that's the hardest thing about writing a play is really nailing that title, right?
Brendan Ragan: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Ah, this is a home run. And so that's going to run October 29th through December 5th.
Brendan Ragan: Correct.
Robyn Bell: And then you take December off after that, got a little holiday plans in there, and then starting January 14th through February 20th is our chance to see Ronan Noons play The Smuggler, which I'm guessing is well. A smuggler.
Brendan Ragan: Yes. About a smuggler blending
Robyn Bell: ding, ding, they wait, wait, wait.
Brendan Ragan: That's nice. Perhaps not the kind that you're thinking though. So The Smuggler is about an Irish immigrant, whose name is Tim and Tim comes to America thinking, you know, the streets are gonna be paved with gold and life is going to be amazing. And he finds out that it's actually a lot harder and he's being sort of treated like a second-class citizen, even, though, he's trying to work hard and trying to make a life for himself. Taking them as seriously. So he's working at a bar and Tim meets a guy at this bar who makes people disappear in Mexico and reappear in the United States. So he helps smuggle them into the United States. He basically charges them money to do that. And Tim gets mixed up in that human smuggling, I guess you could call it. And the whole entire play is a one man show. It's 9,000 words of rhyming verse. So the whole thing is in rhyme and I
Robyn Bell: find the perfect guy.
Brendan Ragan: He's you got to find an incredible actor. And I think we have him and this guy plays all the characters. He, tells the whole entire story and the play insists that it happens inside of a bar. So, you know, what we do here at Urbanite we're going to turn the whole theater into a bar. And so while this actor has to do all this stuff, he also is going to be making people drinks.
Summer Dawn Wallace: So this is your drinking.
Brendan Ragan: That's going to be a really, really beautiful
Robyn Bell: Is there a pool table?.
Brendan Ragan: I hope we can fit one in, I mean, we'll see, we'll see how many tickets we need to sell to it
Robyn Bell: and aligned to the bathroom only for the women.
Brendan Ragan: Yeah. And what's fun about the show is, is not just all. Interactive elements, but all of the characters are a bit shady. It's a very funny, it's a little bit mischievous as well. No, one's just good or bad. Everyone is a bit complicated. So that's going to be a really fun show.
Robyn Bell: Has this one been on your radar for a while?
Brendan Ragan: Yes. In fact, it has, we were planning on doing this show
Summer Dawn Wallace: in the same spot too.
Brendan Ragan: Yeah. In the same spot, but during 2021. So we have known that we were going to do this show in some fashion since almost 2019, really? So yeah, it'll, it'll be a long time coming.
Robyn Bell: It's really sounds fun. I can't, wait. And that brings us to the third show, which we've sort of already hinted at April 1st through May 1st Rosa Fernandez play A Skeptic and a Bruja. And what makes this show so unique and intriguing besides the collaboration with
Summer Dawn Wallace: so I've never read another play like this. It's. like a spine tingley rollercoaster. It's suspenseful thriller in the horror genre. It's gonna make your hair stand up on your arms and it's a fun unit.
Robyn Bell: Well, it keeps me up at night when I go home, I'll be like, Hmm,
Summer Dawn Wallace: maybe,
Brendan Ragan: maybe.
Robyn Bell: Cause I'm all in on these plays, you know, I like, I like feel them for weeks afterwards,
Summer Dawn Wallace: you meet a paranormal investigating team. They have their own YouTube channel. They've been called in on a case for a potentially haunted bed and breakfast. And so they're helping the owner of the bed and breakfast. Solve. She thinks it's haunted. There's a skeptic who doesn't believe it's haunted. So, you know, it's is it haunted? Is it not haunted? And then we learned about the women in this play, the mysteries of this house, and it is so fun. It's also a comedy the imagination and the fund, things that as Urbanite, we get to figure out how to make happen with this kind of play is super exciting. And I should mention the playwright. It's going to be down here in Sarasota for the entire experience.
Robyn Bell: Wow. And also go to St. Pete be here the whole time and
Summer Dawn Wallace: we'll see the show up in St. Pete and this play came out of our Modern Works Festivals. So that's super exciting. And then also the playwright of The Smuggler Ronan Noone is also going to be coming down. So there'll be an opportunity for our audience members to also. Both the playwrights of the place as well. I should mention. I forgot Terry for At the Wake of a Drag Queen is also,
Robyn Bell: they're all coming.
Summer Dawn Wallace: They're all coming.
Robyn Bell: Wow. And that's part of your expenses, I think. Right. You got to put them up and feed them and yeah. Oh
Brendan Ragan: But it's worth it, especially on a show that has. Let's get to
Robyn Bell: these offices turns into a bedroom,
Brendan Ragan: right? Yeah. There's a A Skeptic in Bruja a world premiere. So you want the playwright here. She's gotta be here making changes, updates. And that's the whole point of a world. Premier getting its first ever production is, putting all the final touches on it. But the other performances, both The Smuggler and At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen they've only been performed At the Wake has only been performed once. Now there's going to be another production in California at the same time as ours. So again, that's really important for the playwright to see there probably won't be like major changes as a result of that visit, but it's so important for them to see their work outside of the world. Premiere. Same with Ronan. There's been a couple of performances of The Smuggler up in Massachusetts, but it is not a show that has made its rounds around the country. So it's really valuable for the playwright to see these. And that makes it all the better for our relationship with that playwright, but also all the better for that plays life after Urbanite, which. I succeed
Robyn Bell: In the Wake of the Dead Drag Queen. You said two people, you said that The Smuggler is a one man show. What about A Skeptic and a Bruja?
Summer Dawn Wallace: A Skeptic, and a Bruja has four,
Robyn Bell: four, and they will be working together here and then moving home,
Summer Dawn Wallace: the entire team will go to free-fall. So for an actor, that's an amazing contract. So not only is it 11 weeks here, but then it might be, 10 weeks at Free Fall as well.,
Robyn Bell: maybe a collaboration like this is something you will continue or
Brendan Ragan: absolutely. Yeah. And not just with Freefall, either with there's some other really exciting theaters in Florida that could make a potential fun partnership in either direction, us sending a show there or vice versa. We had the opportunity to do this with Free-fall this year it's been something we sort of mentioned casually with Eric Davis in the past. It felt like a good time to kick it off. That was another reason that we spread the, season out a bit so that we could really manage this one. Well, and then who knows open it up as a tradition in the future? It's a really valuable tool, not just for the theater makers, but for, the cities who all get to experience one show normally. Only get it in one place. And if you want to see it, you gotta go all the way to Sarasota, for example, to see it. But this means it gets a little extra life further up the coast. So it's going to be right.
Robyn Bell: Really.
Summer Dawn Wallace: It's an opportunity. If somebody happens to buy a ticket in Sarasota to make the trip up to St. Pete and make kind of a date night out of that and see what twice and see the difference. Flag in it and a different experience
Robyn Bell: in the round, out the season running June 10th, through July 10th is another woman playwright, right? Gracie Gardeners, Athena. So this obviously Athena that's telling me we got some estrogen here in this play. What's the storyline about?
Summer Dawn Wallace: In Athena we meet two high school fencers. So they are working together to compete at nationals. And so. They develop a very interesting relationship because they're friends, but they're also competitors or competitors, they are trying to win. So they challenge each other physically, emotionally. We learned kind of about the backgrounds. They're very different from each other.
Robyn Bell: And is there a lot of physical, you know, they have to kind of be fencers in this um,
Summer Dawn Wallace: not just kind of tense, believably. Yeah. On the competitive level. So, everybody who's listening. I know you're going to want to sit on the front row for this one, for sure. So yes. There's
Robyn Bell: blood on it.
Brendan Ragan: No, it's fencing. They're not stabbing each other. They're just scoring points.
Robyn Bell: Should tell you how much I know
Summer Dawn Wallace: they're not stabbing each other. They're just, trying to get points, but it's
Robyn Bell: safety first.
Summer Dawn Wallace: We always sit tight. Do you like that? We're spying on them. The play moves fast and furious through time. So it's going to be quite the adventure in our space. Turning it into a fencing arena.
Robyn Bell: Two woman show.
Summer Dawn Wallace: The two hands are
Robyn Bell: two hander,
Summer Dawn Wallace: two hander
Robyn Bell: set the terms. You have not done that yet. No, I say I learned so much from you guys every time I'm around you. I just like I was sponge. I just take it in. So is there an overall. Theme then for the whole season.
Brendan Ragan: Yeah. What we're calling this season is Radiance. And the reason for that is because like Summer said, we were looking for. A lot of playfulness, plenty of fun complex human experience. And we want it to celebrate the return to the theater with shows that will make the traditional Urbanite theater goer really excited, but also folks who have, you know, we've missed theater for a long time. We haven't had live performance in a while to rejoice in that return to the theater. And so when we were trying to come up with a term to capture all that. The reason we settled on Radiant is because all of these. Make you feel good, even though there's some darkness in some of them, there's a bit of tragedy, I guess you could say, they're not the heavy, dark hard affair, you know, and we love those it's back there at some point, emotionally, immature, dark comedy and these, but they give you that warm feeling of just, that was a fun play. Interesting people, important stories, culturally. And that's why we titled season eight. Radiance.
Robyn Bell: I love it. And I just can't wait October 29th camp kit here as soon enough. And when those plays are about to open and you start sort of your media blitz for each one, please, I would love to you don't talk to the actors and get a behind the scene look, or the directors or whatever. And you're both directing it. One of these right of the four, which one are you directing?
Brendan Ragan: The Smuggler.
Robyn Bell: Okay.
Summer Dawn Wallace: And then I'm taking on Athena.
Robyn Bell: Yes. Are you going to have to learn some fencing moves?
Summer Dawn Wallace: I think I've probably just
Brendan Ragan: going to have to understand,
Summer Dawn Wallace: understand it. I don't, know if I'm anyone wants me to be a fencer, but yeah.
Robyn Bell: Okay. So I'm going to tell you a little story I tell this story every year to our, we have a class at the college where all the music majors have to take it in. And one of the things they learn how to do is to perform in front of an audience, which also means walking out on stage, taking your bow, how do I hold our instruments? And we talk in detail about the bow, because a lot of people don't know about the history of the bow. And when we talk about fencing, that reminds me of this story because theater. The actors take bows as well, but a history of the bow comes from jousting, right. When people would you know, duel majestic, they, yes, they would take off their helmet and they would bend it. At the waist to show the top of their head, the most vulnerable place, because it was a sign of trust. If you are going to kill me, you're going to do it right now with your sword, right. To the top of my head. And so that is the history of why we bow today is taking that bow, showing the top of her head and saying, I trust you as an audience that you're going to accept what I'm about to give you and not hurt me. Yeah. Sorry. It's it's true. It's true.
Brendan Ragan: You taught me something today, too.
Robyn Bell: I don't like to brag listen Summer and Brendan, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today and for continuing to bring the Suncoast, these amazing works of art that we otherwise might never get to see. I am so rooting for you and your fundraising campaign to create a business as unusual workweek, a new rehearsal model that will no doubt set the trend in our area for how it should be done. We're looking forward to October 29th. Bated breath to see the fruits of all your efforts and for a return to live theater on your stage. Thanks.
Brendan Ragan: Thank you.
Summer Dawn Wallace: Thank you.