Overture, curtain, lights

A preview of Savannah's fall season in community and student theater

After a summer that included impressive (and impressively large) productions of Cabaret and The Wizard of Oz, could our area’s theater season possibly get even better between September and the end of the year?

We’ll know soon enough. Far from the raggedy, disconnected community that limped through a show or two at the tail end of 2009, Savannah’s amateur theater groups rallied in 2010, and came back swinging with one cohesive production after another.

Ladies and gentleman, we have a season!

Last week, director Tom Coleman and his Savannah Community Theatre were at Muse Arts Warehouse with a “staged reading” of an in–progress version of the musical Hands of the Spirit.

These open–to–the–public workshops were for Coleman, and playwright Mary Padgelek, to get a reaction to the things that work (and those that don’t) in the script.

Based on Padgelek’s award–winning book In the Hands of the Spirit: The Visionary Work of J.B. Murray, the musical tells the true–life tale of an illiterate Georgian farm worker who, moved by the spirit of God, began to paint – and became one of the South’s most acclaimed artists.

Featuring a large cast of actors and gospel vocalists, Hands of the Spirit was first performed in 2004 at the Lyndon House theater in Athens.

Coleman, Padgelek and company will take the information from the audience response cards, tweak the show and keep working on it. The full production of Hands of the Spirit is scheduled for Dec. 9–11 in the Trustees Theater.

Both the Savannah Children’s Theatre and AWOL (all Walks of Life) have auditions planned for their early 2012 shows. The former (Suessical the Musical) will audition (children and adults) in mid–October. AWOL auditions (for the annual hip hop Shakespeare adaptation) are held in September.

The Tybee Arts Performing Society and independent director Jim Holt have projects in the works that they’re not quite ready to talk about, and the performing arts department at SCAD won’t release their play schedule for a couple of weeks.

And who knows what’ll pop up from some other creative brain between now and the New Year? That anticipation is one of the things that keeps the fire going for theater aficionados.

In the meantime, this is the stuff that’s already etched in stone:

Simon Says. The Masquers of Armstrong Atlantic State University offer up reprise performances of their summertime Neil Simon fest, with The Odd Couple (Female Version) Aug. 25, The Prisoner of Second Avenue (Aug. 26) and Barefoot in the Park (Aug. 27). Each show starts at 7:30 p.m. in Jenkins Hall.

12 Angry Pigs. The youth ensemble of Savannah’s Performing Arts Collective (PAC) with a 10-minute short play, Aug. 26 and 27 at Muse Arts Warehouse. Wade Bradford’s comedy is a spoof on Reginald Rose’s courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men.

The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later. Travis Harold Coles is directing this updated version of Moises Kaufman’s dramatic setting of real–life words and events. In 1998, gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was tortured and murdered in one of the country’s most appalling contemporary hate crimes. The Laramie Project was written around interviews, conducted not long after the murder, of townspeople and those who knew Shepard and the perpetrators. The play was revised in 2008 to include interviews with Shepard’s mother, and the killers themselves. Sept. 16–25 at Bay Street Theatre.

The Bald Soprano. The theater students of Savannah State University bring Eugene Ionesco’s absurdist masterpiece to the stage Sept. 15–17.

Angels in America. Director David Poole and the Collective Face take on Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize–winning, three–hour epic about gays, AIDS and emotional dislocation in mid 1980s New York. This is Part One: Millenium Approaches (the second part takes another three hours!) Begins Sept. 16 and runs for three weekends, with no matinees because of the length,  at Muse Arts Warehouse.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing–Along Blog. The Odd Lot comedy troupe returns with its 2011 live–action interpretation of musician Joss Whedon’s off–kilter superhero musical, Oct. 6–15 at Muse Arts Warehouse.

Two Rooms. A black box production of the dark psychodrama by Lee Blessing, winner of the Pulitzer and the Tony for A Walk in the Woods. By the AASU Masquers, Oct. 13–16 in Jenkins Hall’s smaller room. Two Rooms was Time magazine’s Best Play of 1988.

The Rocky Horror Show. October wouldn’t be the same without Bay Street Theatre’s poly–hued production of the classic camp musical. Christopher Blair, who’s played Dr. Frank N. Furter for the last two years, is directing this time. Every Rocky role - including the good doctor - is available at the auditions, from 6–9 p.m. Aug. 18 and 19, at Bay Street Theatre in Club One. The show runs Oct. 21–30.

The Drowsy Chaperone. This wacky musical comedy concerning Jazz Age showgirl Janet van de Graff and her friends in the Broadway extravaganza Feldzeig’s Follies won a pair of Tonys in 2006. It’s the AASU Masquers’ big fall production, running Oct. 27–Nov. 6 in Jenkins Hall.

Frankenstein. David Poole directs R.N. Sandberg’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s immortal horror novel, Nov. 3-6 at  Savannah State University.

Side By Side By Sondheim. You always get something sweet when the thespian troupe at Asbury Memorial Church does a musical (the spring’s production of The Mikado was both musically and visually impressive). They’re putting up this classic Stephen Sondheim revue Nov. 4–13, with Ray Ellis and Cheri Hester directing. Auditions are at 7 p.m. Aug. 15 and 16 - that’s this week! - at the church.

Vanities. Last one in 2011 for the Masquers of AASU is the comedy–drama by Jack Heifner centered on the lifelong friendship of three Texas cheerleaders. It’ll run Nov. 17–20 in the Jenkins Hall black box.