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Hey gang, let’s put on a show
Local theatre gone wild!
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Summer in Savannah gets a bad rap. The truth is that many east coast cities well north of us routinely have worse summers than we do.

New York, Philly, and of course Washington, D.C. -- a fetid swamp in more ways than one -- all come to mind as places that are often much more brutal in the summer than Savannah.

And if you want to talk humidity -- well, you don’t really know humidity until you’ve spent some quality time on the Gulf Coast or in Central America. Savannah’s a veritable desert compared to those steamy locales.

This past Sunday in Savannah was as fine a day as you could want in a summer -- any summer, anywhere. Manageable temperature, comparatively low humidity and a frequent breeze combined for something approaching paradise.

I guess the real question is: Should we keep the truth to ourselves, or continue to spread the sometimes-convenient myth to our friends in other states that Savannah’s unbearable in the summertime?

One segment of the community that isn’t letting the heat slow them down in the slightest is local theatre groups. I cannot recall seeing a more active theatre season ever in Savannah -- let alone a summer season.

The Armstrong Atlantic State University Masquers, making up for future lost time with the pending renovation of both the school’s live theatre spaces, must be breaking records with the blistering pace of their summer slate, which is so ambitious it has a name all its own: “Encore.”

If the Masquers have had a single dark weekend over the past couple of months, I can’t think which one it might have been. They followed The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) with The Bad Seed, which was rapidly followed by the two-woman show Parallel Lives, now playing. Immediately after the curtain closes on the Parallel Lives run, the Masquers go up with Arsenic and Old Lace.

Hey, Masquers -- leave a few plays left to do in the renovated space, OK?

Tom Coleman’s new Savannah Community Theatre has had a busy time of it lately too, with its inaugural Radio GALS, its ongoing Savannah Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre at the Pirate’s House and the current production, Showtune.

Kelie Miley’s Savannah Childrens Theatre, in the same space on Victory and Skidaway as Savannah Community Theatre, continues its own breakneck pace, following the summer’s successful run of Beauty and the Beast with The Little Mermaid, and opening Alice in Wonderland this weekend.

Savannah Actors Theatre downtown continues their crusade to eliminate as much dark time as possible from their space at the ARK Theatre on Louisville Road. On the heels of June’s Looking for Ethiopia, they open A Moon for the Misbegotten this weekend, and hold the regular improv “PBR Show” -- that’s short for Peanut Butter Radio, not the ironic hipster beer of choice -- each Monday evening.

SAT’s goal for 2008 is to have something live going up -- anything live -- all 365 nights of the year. (If nothing else they should be able to get an awesome documentary film out of the effort. Thesis project alert!)

The city’s Cultural Arts Theatre continues its full calendar of events, including the current run of Footloose, to be followed by Bat Boy the Musical in August. Because its productions are typically larger in scale then other local groups, they don’t put on quite as many shows. But believe me, Artistic Director D.J. Queenan and company burn the midnight oil to get these complicated, demanding productions cast, their sets built and all systems good to go.

And of course there’s the continuing professional revue at the Historic Savannah Theatre, the current incarnation being Return to the ‘50s, cycling into Broadway on Bull Street in September following a brief five-show run of Greater Tuna Sept. 6-9.

What’s also interesting about all this is that theatre groups are showing much more flexibility about shows than before. Every troupe everywhere occasionally runs into last-minute nightmare scenarios, generally having to do with buying rights, that force them to put the kibosh on previously planned productions.

But these days when local theatre groups run into those kinds of deal-breakers, they quickly adjust by plugging new shows into the gap. It’s not easy, but the fact that it’s being done at all, and so regularly, is something I find very encouraging.

What to make of this local theatre activity, both the quality and the quantity? What does it all mean?

Simply put, it means that live theatre in Savannah has finally hit critical mass. And I ain’t talkin’ theatre critics here.

In other words, the amount of available talent has finally synched up with the amount of dedicated directors and crew to make that win-win situation, that perfect storm of big-city live theatre presence, finally possible.

The third part of the formula is you, the theatregoer, who makes these performances possible by your patronage. Don’t let us all down!

Jim Morekis is editor in chief of Connect Savannah. E-mail him at