Urbanite Rebrands Giving with The Black Party



In a town full of galas and fundraisers (especially at peak season), standing out as something different from the pack can mean the difference between success and defeat. This counts double if the organization behind the event doesn’t have decades of community entrenchment to fall back on. So when the folks behind the Urbanite revived their (mostly) annual Black Party fundraiser gala for this weekend, they drew the line—no emcees, no auctions, no ceremonies and no sign-up forms, emotional speeches or pleas for money. “We’re just celebrating,” says Urbanite Cofounder Brendan Ragan, “that we’re here another year and that we’ve got big plans.”

Kicking off this Saturday, 7pm, at Aloft Sarasota, the plan calls for largely uninterrupted revelry into the wee hours of the morning, with minimal interference from hosts to spoil the good time. A ticket price of $150 covers the entrance fee and drink tickets—with all proceeds going towards supporting next season’s productions—but after that it’s all about having a good time, with DJ Joey D bringing the music and dance floor as the centerpiece. Once guests are through the door, the fundraising is over and the fun begins, as a thank you for a year of support. “And the best way to do that,” says Ragan, who likens the event more to a happening New Year’s Eve Party than a fundraiser, “is to celebrate how much we’ve done together.” Throughout the night, images from past productions will be projected on the walls of the Aloft courtyard as a visible reminder.

The dress code is all-black, both an homage to the black box theater and its mysterious and modern sensibilities, but also a practical choice that keeps it fun but easy for the guest list. Near everyone has a black outfit, and if they don’t, one is easy to find (and easier to keep clean than all white). Featuring food from Modern Events, Saturday’s Black Party also marks the return of The Bourbonite—a craft cocktail created in collaboration with State Street Eating House, and a favorite for Urbanite staff and supporters, like a boozy mascot. Made with bourbon, grapefruit, ginger beer and Hellfire bitters, it’s smoky and citrusy with a bit of a zip at the end.

In the absence of a silent auction, awards ceremony or sit-down dinner, Urbanite will host a minimally invasive 50/50 raffle. With four body paint models—two men and two women—circulating through the party selling tickets (and therefore building the pot), at the end of the night a winner is drawn to split the pot with The Urbanite.

Though perhaps the end result is not the sit-down affair with paddled auctions and speeches that Sarasota socialites and philanthropists may be accustomed too, Ragan remains confident that the Black Party carries its own cross-sectional appeal. For the young and energetic folks looking for a night on the town, Aloft stays open late and once the party nominally ends, it really just migrates inside to the Aloft bar. And for those looking to pop in and out to show their support but avoid a late night, drink service and food service starts right away, with plenty of room to hobnob and chit chat. “It’s all the reasons you go to a party,” says Ragan.

The Black Party begins Saturday, March 10, at 7pm at Aloft Sarasota. Tickets are $150 and go toward Urbanite Theatre’s 2018-19 programming.

Pictured: Good cheer at the Urbanite Theatre Black Party. Photo courtesy of Urbanite Theatre.

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