The World Premiere of Oak at Urbanite Theatre

Arts & Culture

In the little town that runs along Odella Creek, children are never safe. ‘It’s 7pm. Do you know where your children are?’ is the premise of Oak by Terry Guest which will make its world premiere on May 31 at Sarasota’s Urbanite Theatre.  Oak, which has been in development at Urbanite since receiving the organization’s 2020 Charles Rowan Beye New Play Commision, is a Southern Gothic horror at its core, mixing bone-chilling scares with themes of racial identity and prejudice.

“In  Oak, children have been disappearing in this town along the Odella creek for a very long time. There is a town urban legend that the monster Odella will snatch you after dark. Within the story, there’s a lot of symbolism about who the monster is or isn’t,” says Summer Wallace, Producing Artistic Director of Urbanite. “We meet the characters of Suga, Big Man and Pickle. Big man and Pickle are brother and sister and Suga is their cousin. Suga gets snatched and disappears, so Big Man and Pickle go on an adventure to not only find Suga, but escape the Odella monster as well.”

Oak uses the construct of the Odella creek monster to explore the more pertinent themes of racism and motherhood. The legend has it that Odella was a slave that was forced to leave her baby behind when pursuing her freedom. “After Odella left her baby behind, she stopped and turned, heard her baby’s first words of ‘hey mama’ and just decided to keep going. She later drowned,” says Wallace. “Odella the creek monster is basically her–or is it? Kids have been disappearing all throughout this part of this Southern town because of racial violence. This play delves into that and also looks at what happens when a mother chooses herself?”

 Oak is directed by Mikael Burke and comes from the pen of Guest, a two-time Jeff Award winner and writer of multiple award-winning plays including At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen which was a hit for Urbanite during the organization’s 2021-2022 season.

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