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The Poole Effect 

Director David I.L. Poole gears up for season five of Collective Face

YOU stand in line. You buy your ticket. You take your seat. The lights dim. And the actors appear.

Hopefully, what comes next will be a “show that is really a show,” something that will “send you out with a kind of a glow,” to quote a song.

Yes, “that’s entertainment.” And for almost ten years, theater director David I. L. Poole has been making it memorable in Savannah.

You often read about his productions, which began here with “Agnes of God,” a mystery-drama for Savannah Actors Theater in 2007, but rarely about the man and his craft.

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“A great director has to be a storyteller,” he says. “You have to be able to work with people yet guide actors through the journey of the play or musical.”

Poole often talks about “the journey” when discussing theater. It’s a way of approaching each new staging, the selection of which itself journeys into the director’s mindset.

Right now, he’s gearing up for his fifth season at Collective Face, the theater ensemble that he co-founded with Richie Cook. This year’s theme is “enduring engagements.”

Theater-goers will see “Savannah Sipping Society,” “Pygmalion,” “9 to 5 the Musical” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Each work deals in some way with lasting relationships.

“I moved around a lot as a child,” Poole says. “My father was part of the military.”

He reckons that he loves theater so much, in part, because it creates a family, an “enduring engagement” for him. He’s worked with several actors for many years.

He knows their quirks. They know his. Not that we need to ply his psyche to enjoy the “song that’s winging along” or the “dance with the touch of romance.”

Come to think of it, he likes a musical in each season. This year, it’s the Dolly Parton. He also likes a classic and a comedy in each season.

“There’s a formula in some aspects,” he says of his selections. “There’s a diversity.”

But what moves him personally? What does he like directing? Strong, female-driven scripts, he says.

The new work “Savannah Sipping Society” has a touch of Golden Girls in it. “Kiss of the Spider Woman” was a favorite from last season. So don’t expect any David Mamet!

“You don’t want me to direct that,” he says of the playwright known for male bonding themes. “I could. It would be a really weird fit for me. Plays that I love have a little bit of magic in them.”

If a script doesn’t have magic, and it’s appropriate, he’ll sprinkle some of that dust over the whole set. He loves immersive set designs and puppets!

“That’s where I got my start in the theater world,” he says of puppetry. “Puppets can do a lot of things. Some people love puppets. Some people hate them.”

I didn’t ask what furry characters he animated in New York City, where the upstate New York native first ventured into theater while studying at Purchase College in Connecticut.

His stories from the Big Apple don’t seem to end happily. “How am I supposed to create theater when I can’t pay rent?” he asks.

His move to Savannah for the Cardinal Rep production of “Night Mother” in 2008 was supposed to be temporary. But then he landed a job at SSU, where he teaches theater.

“I have space, I have freedom,” he says. “Really, the heart of theater should be in smaller cities... That’s why I stayed in Savannah. It has a growing theater community.”

And so he’s found a stage in our world, a world in our stage. Entertainment here hasn’t been the same since.

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Orlando Montoya

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