Ryan McCurdy and Sasha Travis were very young, but they had big dreams and a lot of determination.
They wanted to establish a theater company in Savannah – and they did. The Savannah Actor’s Theatre, later renamed Cardinal Rep, even had a permanent home in the Freight Station on Louisville Road.
“I think we succeeded in doing two things,” McCurdy said recently. “We wanted to expand the range of what theater could be in Savannah.
“Also, we got the amount of programming doubled, then tripled, in the three years we’ve been in operation,” he said. “We founded a theater when we saw the need and changed the name when it needed changing.”
Because of Cardinal Rep, Savannahians got to see experimental theater and plays never seen before in Savannah, including a wildly popular production of The Rocky Horror Show. But that’s all coming to an end.
“It’s time to bow out,” McCurdy said. “The reason is because the Little Theatre of Savannah is able to take over the building. They’re going to have a month off to rehearse and get their shows together.”
The Little Theatre of Savannah has needed a home theater for some time, McCurdy said. “They have very intensive shows,” he said. “Their sets are very realistic and require time to construct.
“Their audiences have been getting stronger and stronger,” McCurdy said. “The numbers alone will fulfill the requirements for the rent.”
Cardinal Rep has produced 20 mainstage shows. ”We rented out to 27 other shows,” McCurdy said. “That comes out to more than one show a month for every month we’ve been in operation.
“When I saw those numbers, I said it was a good time to let it go,” he said. “I think it’s time for me as a person to try other cities and see where I can be of use as a music director and actor.”
McCurdy plans to leave Savannah next fall. “I always believe in moving forward,” he says.
“We decided to stage a one-night performance of the first show we opened the theater with,” McCurdy said. “It was David Andrews and me, and we both happened to be back in town. He said he would love to do it.”
The show is An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening by Mickie Maher.
“It’s the show that kind of dictated what this theater was going to be,” McCurdy said. “It’s one of my favorite plays.”
It was important to McCurdy to make sure that Cardinal Rep’s regular actors and directors wouldn’t be going without work because of the theater’s closing. “I kind of did a poll and everyone is doing way too many things for sanity and wellbeing without doing Cardinal Rep shows,” he said. “Suddenly, there are new paying gigs in the city.
“Everything has just exploded,” McCurdy said. “I think everyone will be fine. Sasha and I wouldn’t have survived if wasn’t for dozens of people. I’m happy to see we had an impact.”
Travis currently lives in Los Angeles where she does set decoration and acting. “I think people who loved Cardinal Rep will be surprised at the depth of performances that Little Theatre has been doing,” McCurdy said. “I want to see them succeed.”
Admission to the upcoming performance is free, but donations will be accepted to help Little Theatre get established In its new home. “Our first night was donations only, so we’ve come full circle,” McCurdy says,
The performance is set for Sunday, and Little Theatre will assume the Freight Station on Monday morning. The Little Theatre of Savannah board met April 17 and formally agreed to take over the Freight Station. “We’ve made if official,” Board President Monica McDermott said.
“It’s going to be our home,” she said. “We’ve been without a home since we sold the Savannah Theatre building several years ago.”
The board has begun planning its upcoming season and should have a lineup of shows within a month, McDermott said. “We hope to be able to provide space to other theater groups as Ryan has done,” she said.
“We are sad that Cardinal Rep is taking its leave,” McDermott said. “We appreciate the support Ryan has given us. We realize he needs to explore other opportunities and we are excited for our future.”
The Little Theatre of Savannah was started 58 years ago. “I can’t tell you the feeling we had in making this decision,” McDermott said. “We’re getting a home and it’s very exciting.”
Cardinal Rep: An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This his Final Evening
The first play presented by Cardinal Rep in Savannah will also be its last.
When: April 26, 8 p.gm.
Where: The Freight Station, 703 Louisville Rd.
Cost: Free, but donations will be accepted.