Tybee Post Theater: A Community Treasure

THE POST IS PACKED: “We’re booked every single weekend through the end of the year."

Over the years, I have seen some fabulous plays, musicals, movies, and concerts at the Tybee Post Theater. Quaint and historic, with amazing acoustics and seating for 206 patrons, it’s the most wonderful, reasonably priced, and intimate theater in Chatham County! And where else can you buy wine or beer at the concession stand without missing more than a minute of the show?! Yet so many Savannahians have not heard of this little gem… I recently sat down with Evan Goetz, who has served as the theater’s executive director since the spring of 2021 when he was selected from a field of over 100 applicants.

He tells me about growing up in the small town of Gaffney in upstate South Carolina, his high school and college passion for theater, his undergraduate degree in Theater from Limestone College (now University) and his move to Savannah in 2010 to earn an MFA in Performing Arts from SCAD. Despite appearing in four SCAD productions during his two-year studies, Goetz quickly realized he did not want the itinerant life of a stage performer, preferring to focus on the arts administration side.

click to enlarge Tybee Post Theater: A Community Treasure
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Evan Goetz
After SCAD, he held several parttime jobs including marketing director for Skidaway Island State Park, Creative Director for the Savannah Stage Company, and teaching at Savannah Children’s Theater and GSU-Armstrong before ultimately accepting a fulltime job as the Arts Marketing Manager for GSU’s Art, Music, and Theater Department. Later, Goetz worked with the Blumenthal Performing Arts group in Charlotte marketing their Broadway season of shows and managing their 12,000 subscribers before taking a position in local government and economic development with the City of Rockhill’s Department of Arts and Culture.

This strong background in marketing and promoting the arts laid the groundwork for Goetz’s eventual success at the Tybee Post Theater. Coming in at the tail end of the pandemic was a challenge; he remembers emailing a survey to patrons asking when they would feel safe to return to the building.

The overwhelmingly response was that they were ready, and Goetz began the work of developing such diverse cultural offerings as Oscar-nominated movies in January and February, family-friendly movies in the summer, ballet, stand-up comedy shows, numerous tribute bands, barbershop concerts and other choral offerings, historical lectures, and stellar performances by local and regional bands. There was a brief, second pandemic-related shutdown in January of 2022, but “we’ve been super fortunate ever since," he says.Constructed in 1930, the Post Theater was one of the very first Georgia movie theaters equipped to show feature-length “talkies.” Situated on Tybee’s military base Fort Screven, which was active from the Spanish-American War through World War II, the theater was the movie house for U.S. soldiers and their families and hosted such famed visitors as Base Commander General George C. Marshall, lyricist and songwriter Johnny Mercer, and future President Dwight Eisenhower.

The base was decommissioned and sold to the City of Savannah Beach (as Tybee was then known) and many of its buildings were auctioned off. The family who owned Savannah’s Lucas Theater purchased the movie theater, and operated it as the Beach Theater through the mid 1960’s.

For the next three decades the property declined, a devasting fire destroyed much of the roof and stage, and it came dangerously close to being demolished to accommodate the building of condominiums. In 2006, the City of Tybee and the Tybee Island Historical Society purchased the building, and local community leader Jim Kluttz left the presidency of the Society to form the nonprofit Friends of Tybee Theater, dedicated to the restoration of the landmark.

click to enlarge Tybee Post Theater: A Community Treasure
[TYBEE POST]
A Led Zeppelin tribute band performs in the intimate auditorium

With the support of numerous donors, and after many years of fundraising events, the community gem was fully restored with ADA-compliant restrooms, a small concession area, a recreated historic marquee and box office, a front foyer, and seats salvaged from Savannah’s Trustees Theater. It received the prestigious President’s Award during the 2016 Historic Savannah’s Foundation’s Preservation Awards and opened to the public in September of that year.

Goetz says, “Tybee, to some people in Savannah, seems so far away. My biggest goal was to make the Tybee Post Theater known to the residents of Savannah and the surrounding area. We were already doing such good things, but they needed to see the value of driving the 20 or 25 minutes to the island.” He laughs. “I worked in Charlotte for a brief period and that was an hour and a half just to go 20 miles!”

He continues, “It’s a beautiful drive and we’re 45 seconds from the beach. There are some great restaurants [and a brewery] within walking distance of the theater, and we have great programming. So that was the goal – to establish ourselves as the place for fun and for culture.”

In 2023 the theater sold a record 18,000 tickets with over 5,000 sold to Tybee residents and 9,000 to Savannah residents. “So, people in Savannah do support us. We just need to do a better job of reaching more of them.”

Goetz’s other major focus is supporting local artists. He says, “I can pay people from outside the area to come here, but we’re not supporting the local economy and local creatives. Savannah does not have an affordable accessible space for theater and dance. We can offer that. This year we’re hosting the Savannah Stage Company, Savannah Ballet Theatre, Tybee Ballet Theatre, and the Savannah Repertory Theatre.”

click to enlarge Tybee Post Theater: A Community Treasure
[TYBEE POST]
Patrons in the 206-seat theater enjoy a close and unobstructed view of a Led Zeppelin tribute band

As executive director, Goetz’s days are busy supervising three fulltime employees, 12 parttime employees, and numerous volunteers; booking future shows (“We’re booked every single weekend through the end of the year, and I’m booking through next summer already”); meeting with donors; planning for future growth; and organizing the nonprofit’s fundraising calendar.

“We’ve created this bookended fundraising. We have a kickoff spring gala [this year, Goetz returned to the stage after more than a decade to star as fast-talking traveling salesman Harold Hall in four performances of The Music Man and in late summer, we host the Tybee Post Music Festival.”

The outdoor music festival has had its share of weather-related issues (the first year a hurricane swept through!) so this year, it will change formats to an election-week Thursday, Friday, and Saturday three-day event in the Theater. Details will be released this month, but Goetz shares that the first night will feature local musician Matt Eckstein with a plethora of his talented friends, the second will feature a well-known Beach Music band, and the third night will appeal to a younger “Future-Birds-like” demographic.

Fresh off his performances in The Music Man, Goetz sums up our talk by reflecting on that recent production. “Community is so important. We had almost 40 people involved in that show. That included the Tybee Ballet, an awesome orchestra of local musicians, 20 people in the cast…People from all walks of life, of all ages, and from various organizations. And I thought, ‘That’s why we do this. That’s why we do art. To bring people together through this shared experience.’”

The nonprofit Tybee Post Theater is located at 10 Van Horne Avenue, just off Highway 80 – the main road onto the island that changes its name to First Street once on Tybee. It has designated street parking and is wheelchair accessible. See the full lineup of future shows and purchase tickets at tybeeposttheater.org and follow on Instagram @tybeepost.

     

Beth Logan

Born and raised in Northern Ireland, Beth Logan had a career in healthcare HR and marketing. An artist and former gallery director, she serves on the board of nonprofit ARTS Southeast and has a passion for showcasing Savannah’s arts community, travel, oil painting, and cocktails!
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