Urbanite Theatre’s 2022-23 season, which features four mainstage productions and two special events, is titled Heredity, a note to how all four mainstage productions explore the concept of family and bloodlines in different ways. The choice to produce plays with these thematic elements, along with Co-Artistic Director’s Brendan Ragan and Summer Dawn Wallace simply selecting what they thought was best for the company, was not by accident.

“When I started thinking about what kind of theater Sarasota needed right now, I just felt like challenges inside the family are something that are so very relatable. Given everything that we’ve been through, I feel like family units have really been damaged. Some of that is political, some of that is social, but people can relate to the fact that their family has been a cause of challenge, humor, or triumph and managing to forge bonds through these challenges feels really rewarding,” says Ragan. “I think that we’re far enough away from certain things that it’s allowing many families to heal. It’s a perfect year to further all of that.”

One such production that interrogates these thematic elements of familial relationships in a unique way is Backwards Forwards Back, which will make its world premiere on March 24, 2023. The one-man show starring L. James and directed by Ragan, focuses on a veteran struggling with PTSD who considers virtual reality therapy as a means to reconnect with his family. It’s such a powerful and important topic. Are we doing enough to support those who come home damaged in some way, whether it be physically or mentally from PTSD? How many statistics have you seen of vets commiting suicide or ending up homeless?

That experience will be highlighted in the production as L. James, an FSU/Asolo Conservatory Alum, is a veteran himself. He’s got first hand experience where he’s seen so many of his friends, whom he refers to as brothers, end up with PTSD. He’s seen the damage and the consequences of that. It’s very personal to him and we want to bring that authenticity to the play,” says Ragan.

The fact that Backwards Forwards Back is a one-man show makes the experience all the more intimate. For me, one person shows are fascinating —it’s the ultimate form of storytelling. L. James plays multiple roles by voicing the different family members which makes it the simplest and purest form of storytelling. It feels like ‘gather around the campfire and listen to this,’” says Ragan.

Urbanite Theatre, March 24-April 23, 2023, urbanitetheatre.com