MARCH 2, 2023 (Bradenton, Florida)—The Hat Theater Collective is proud to announce the cast and creative team of the World Premiere of The Ballad of Old Manatee, co-created by Founder and Producing Artistic Director, Danae DeShazer, and Derek Brookens. The immersive historical drama runs Fridays and Saturdays, April 21 – May 6, 2023 at the Manatee Village Historical Park (1404 Manatee Ave E) in Bradenton, FL with a portion of ticket sales being donated to the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. Tickets can be purchased by visiting atthehat.org/tickets.
The Ballad of Old Manatee tells the dynamic love story of James C. Vanderipe and Sarah Lee—and an intense conflict between James and Sarah’s father, the Reverend Edmund Lee. This conflict, shrouded in mystery and intrigue, leads to James’ death and burial in what is called “The Lonesome Grave.”
The cast includes Alexander Zickafoose (he/him) as James C. Vanderipe, Ashley Figlow (she/her) as Sarah Lee, Lee Gundersheimer (he/him) as Reverend Edmund Lee, Donna DeFant (she/her) as Electa Lee, Grace Wolfe (she/her) as Eliza Burts, and Derek Brookens (he/him) as the Narrator. Jason Ellis (he/him) will play James C. Vanderipe at select performances.
Rounding out this ensemble cast is Susie Lowe (she/her), Brandy Harlan (she/her), Sean Harlan (he/him), and Derrick Duncan (he/him).
The Ballad of Old Manatee will be directed by Danae DeShazer (she/her). Ms. DeShazer is a professional director, actor, teaching artist, and choreographer. She is the former Associate Artistic Director at McLeod Summer Playhouse in Carbondale, Illinois. She has toured with several youth theater companies, including The National Theatre for Children, Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre, and Lexington Children’s Theatre. Local audiences might have seen her work at Manatee Performing Arts Center (RENT), Theatre Odyssey’s One Act Play Festival (WINNER! That Kiss), or The Players Centre (Broadway on the Bay: The Sarasota Divas; …Spelling Bee).
“I’m incredibly thrilled and honored to uncover this gem of a story inspired by true events of early Manatee County history alongside my partner, Derek,” said Ms. DeShazer. “Developing new work is certainly daunting, but collaborating with such a dynamic team on The Hat Theater Collective’s inaugural production holds true to our mission of enriching our community through culturally-important storytelling and inspirational theatrical experiences. We hope audiences will not only learn a little more about the early settlers of our community, but also enjoy the immersive outdoor setting at the beautiful grounds of the Historical Park.”
Derek Brookens is the co-creator of The Ballad of Old Manatee, writing the book, music, and lyrics. Mr. Brookens’ work was most recently seen as a finalist in The Players Centre’s New Play Festival with his full-length play, Gin Rickey. Originally from Pennsylvania, Derek spent a decade performing professionally across the country. He’s been an actor and songwriter since age 15 and a playwright since 25. His other works include “The Sword in the Stone,” an original musical adaptation for students. He’s also completed “28 Plays Later,” a daily playwriting challenge, twice.
Joining Ms. DeShazer and Mr. Brookens on the creative team are Carrie Greenberg (she/her) as Rehearsal Assistant, Andrea Knies (she/her) as History Consultant, and Olivia d’Amico (she/her) as Costume Consultant.
This interactive and unique theatrical experience will serve as a fundraiser for the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. maintains the historically significant buildings within the Manatee Village Historical Park in order to preserve and share the heritage of Manatee County’s founding period (1840-1918).
Tickets are on sale for $27 and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Manatee County Historical Commission, Inc. These proceeds will assist in the repairs and maintenance of the 1887 Church. Tickets can be purchased by visiting atthehat.org/tickets.
The production is approximately 75 minutes with no intermission and will have a limited run on Fridays and Saturdays, April 21 – May 6, 2023.
- Friday, April 21 at 4:15PM and 6PM
- Saturday, April 22 at 4:15PM and 6PM
- Friday, April 28 at 4:15PM and 6PM
- Saturday, April 29 at 2PM, 4:15PM and 6PM
- Friday, May 5 at 4:15PM and 6PM
- Saturday, May 6 at 2PM, 4:15PM and 6PM