New Broad Ripple Theatre Set to Officially debut

September 4, 2019

Storefront Theatre entrance. Courtesy of Chandra Lynch. Used with permission.

When I heard the new Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis was opening in the Broad Ripple neighborhood on Indy’s far northeast side, my interest was immediately piqued because in the early 80s, I acted in plays directed by Fonseca Theatre Company founder and artistic director Bryan Fonseca at the former Broad Ripple Playhouse. Located on Westfield Boulevard, BRP was owned and operated by producer June McCarty. To my knowledge, there has not been a comparable arts organization in the area since.

Storefront opens its second season in its permanent space with “Pilgrims” this Friday. Written by Claire Kiechel, the drama is directed by Chelsea Anderson and features Kelsey Leigh Miller, Ryan Ruckman and Carrie Schlatter. The production runs through September 22.

The theatre actually launched in 2017 with its production of “Infinity” and then “Prowess” in 2018, both staged at IndyFringe Indy Eleven Theatre. With a mission focused on programming newer works, Storefront plans to produce ones by female and minority playwrights.

Recently, I sat down with Storefront founder Ronan Marra in the 50-seat black-box theatre, which serves as the mainstage in the 7,500-square-foot space beneath the former Crackers Comedy Club near the corner of Broad Ripple and College Avenues. Marra, who moved to the area with his wife and son in 2015, co-founded Signal Ensemble Theatre in Chicago, where he served as the co-artistic director for 14 years.

Ronan Marra – Courtesy of Mark Larson. Used with permission,

Marra, who has a BFA in acting from Kent State University and grew up in Cleveland, moved to Fishers for the affordable housing market. Since his father’s family all grew up here, he has many relatives living nearby.

He says he chose the location because he thought Broad Ripple could use an arts presence. “Not that I have anything against bars, but there are a lot here. I felt the neighborhood could use a spot for professional theatre performances.” Marra said many of his board members live near Broad Ripple as well, including board president Julia Myer, owner of Fitness Fortitude, along with three attorneys, a financial advisor, and an insurance professional. “We are in lockstep with each other. Julia has a theatre background, but the others don’t. Some of them said, ‘I don’t know anything about theatre or the arts,’ but I said, ‘I can handle that part. I need you for your expertise,’” said Marra.

With an eye toward inclusivity, Marra said, “I think you will never see a play here that has previously been presented locally. That is really important to me. There is so much vital new work out there by playwrights whom you may not have heard of before. People who are writing your favorite show on HBO, Showtime and Netflix are the people who are writing plays that I am doing. If you are into those kinds of dramas, I think you’ll like what we do here because the playwrights are doing some other kind of work.”

Marra feels that the theatre’s intimacy is also what sets it apart. “I love nothing more than the intimate experience here. I love the kind of work that you can do and the subtle or the human work you can do when you are this close to the actors. That’s my favorite thing,” he explained.

Storefront Theatre – Courtesy of Chandra Lynch. Used with permission.

Also contributing to Storefront’s uniqueness is its flexibility, said Marra, who calls it “an eco-system of an arts experience.” The black-box seating will allow for different configurations. The space will also offer pre-show events, which will include art exhibits, play readings and acoustic performances. There will also be a bar where wine and beer will be served. The multipurpose space can also be a classroom, studio area or rehearsal. Ultimately, Storefront, which will rent its facilities to other arts organizations, will serve as a de facto performing arts center in Broad Ripple.

Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis is located at 717 Broad Ripple Avenue. For tickets and information about “Pilgrims,” call (317) 292-9755 or go to storefrontindy.com.

photo: Julie Curry

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and Examiner.com, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Indy Style.

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

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