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FSU/Asolo Conservatory Grads Break Ground on New Local Theater Space


SARASOTA – FSU/Asolo Conservatory alums Brendan Ragan and Summer Wallace piqued the interest of local theater fans in June, when they announced that they would be forming a new theater company in downtown Sarasota. Urbanite Theatre is one step closer to reality, now that they've broken ground on an intimate facility that is sure to add a new dimension to the local arts scene.

Brendan Ragan (R) pictured with Chris Williams in a 2012 FSU/Asolo Conservatory production of Lobby Hero.

Photo by Frank Atura

The duo announced last week that all of the necessary permits from the City of Sarasota have been acquired and construction has begun on what will ultimately be a 50-70 seat black box theater in the rear of the building at 1487 Second Street.

Black box denotes a small, sparsely-adorned performance area, in which the backdrop is often nothing more than black walls or cloth drops. The venue type became popular in New York and other cities during the experimental theater heyday of the 1970s. To Ragan, who was one of the Conservatory's strongest students in the last couple of years, the allure is in the close quarters.

“The intimacy of the space offers a different type of experience,” says Ragan. “This isn’t a theater where you can disconnect and disappear into the darkness, 100 feet from the performance. At Urbanite, you’ll share the same room as the performers, you’ll breathe the same air. You’ll experience the stories we tell, not just watch them.”

The two co-founders say that their time together at the Conservatory and Asolo Rep resulted in a chemistry that will be the core of Urbanite's creative energy.

“Brendan and I each have over a decade of experience as professional actors,” says Wallace, “but our time at Asolo Rep was invaluable. Our work in the small classrooms was thrilling and life-changing, and performing with the Rep company introduced us to the vibrant arts community in Sarasota. We want to marry that exciting, small-scale work with the incredible patrons in the region.”

Urbanite will celebrate the ground breaking as well as the the acquisition of 501(c)(3) non-profit, tax exempt status with a kick-off party at Social On First this Friday at 5 p.m. The celebration is open to the public and guests are encouraged to come out and meet the company’s founders and supporters.

The two are hoping to complete construction between January and March of next year, with a planned opening date to be announced later this fall.


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