Converted from paper version of the Broad Ripple Gazette (v16n18)
Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis opens Sept 7, 2019 - by Mario Morone
posted: Sept. 05, 2019
For playwright and director Ronan Marra, the show must go on.
As Artistic Director of the Storefront Theatre of Indianapolis at 717 Broad Ripple Avenue, he recently discussed his career and provided a sneak preview of the venue.
Ronan Marra is founder of the Store Theater at 6283 N. College Avenue.
image courtesy of Mario Morone
"I was in Chicago for about 14 years and previous to that, I grew up outside Cleveland, Ohio. When I moved to Chicago, I started Signal Ensemble with a couple other guys. That theatre was around for 13 years where I directed many of the shows and also wrote a few," he explained.
"When I went to college (at Kent State) for theatre, I initially majored in acting. I wrote a play and got the buzz then as my professors and mentors encouraged me. When I co-founded Signal Ensemble, I wrote and directed our first endeavor," Marra recalled.
His playwriting credits at the Signal Ensemble include the book for The Next Thing (Jeff Nomination in New York; music and lyrics by Jon Steinhagen), Motion, Aftermath, Landslide (Jeff Nomination - New York) and Learning To Fly. His plays have been produced or workshopped in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and Cleveland. He was a 2012 finalist for the Joanne Woodward/Paul Newman Drama Award for Motion and received the 2006 Illinois Arts Council Finalist Award in Scriptworks for Landslide. New City Stage named Marra one of the "Fifty People Who Really Perform in Chicago" in 2012.
Artistic talent runs in his family. His father, Ronan Sr., has acted in various community theatre productions including A Few Good Men, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Sound of Music, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and most recently, The Sensuous Senator. He works for Gemmer Wealth Management. His brother, Steve, owns Adrenaline Motion Pictures and graduated from UCLA Film School and worked on the West Coast as a writer, producer and editor. He was also a touring musician and recording artist for Capitol Records and the TRC Records label. They are members of the Storefront Theatre's advisory board.
A Broad Ripple location was on a future playbill for Marra and his family. "We were still in Chicago around 2015. My wife and I have a seven-year-old son. We talked about school and wanted to get a single family home. My father and step-mother lived in Fishers where we looked for a house. All those things bring you to the suburbs, but I still operated the company in Chicago. We later closed it down and I was going to freelance here and elsewhere. I didn't come here (to Indianapolis) with the intent of starting a theatre." Marra mentioned.
"We produced two shows for the Indy Fringe Festival in our first season. Our second season will be here in Broad Ripple. Midway through our first season, we wanted to pick a location and noticed there isn't a performing arts center here. While living in Fishers and going to Broad Ripple where a lot of artists and people lived, I learned that my board member president, Julia Myer, owned Fortitude Fitness upstairs (above the location). Instead of just having a small theatre, we will have a bar and art gallery with rotating exhibits for local artists. It can be a multi-purpose facility. Storefront Theatre will only produce two or three shows a year, but we will have guest artists whose work will appear," he noted.
The main entrance is along Broad Ripple Avenue. The box office where people can check in, pick up their program and get a drink, is downstairs. The main stage has a small, 50 seat black box theatre. There can also be corporate meetings, fundraisers, weddings and more.
"Until this space came into play, we weren't considering a multi-purpose space, we have an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Access) entrance along North College Avenue. Live theaters need immediate parking. Being able to start a show and having a parking lot for patrons is a great thing. There will cosmetic changes made all around the existing venue (formerly Peppers nightclub)," he added.
Marra is developing the plot for the venue. "The key thing from a branding standpoint is that the Storefront Theatre is the name of the building where we do our own production, but it's also a hub for local art and artists. We're a production company that produces works by female and minority playwrights as premieres. Producing new work is my specialty and it's where I've settled in my career as far as producing and directing. Everything I'm doing here is based on my experience in Chicago, which was housed in an old warehouse. We're a small, professional operation producing plays and a great place to do contemporary theatre. Tickets sales account for 25 percent of revenue. We're a 501 (c) (3) company."
Storefront's first production in the new facility, PILGRIMS, opens Saturday, September 7th. Tickets are available at: www.storefrontindy.com/box-office.