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Shakespeare in Savannah park

Troupe celebrates birthday with sonnets

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POSTED: July 25, 2013 10:28 a.m.
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Shakespeare's work takes on a different feel in Savannah Stage Co: Summer Sonnets.

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A year ago, Bryan Pridgen and four friends arrived in town and declared themselves Savannah Stage Co., an incorporated, not-for-profit theater group. It was, he told Connect, "a young company of professionals with big dreams and a lot of nerve."

In those 12 months, Pridgen says now, Savannah has embraced and supported his group. They now have a dozen-person core, and work, per show, with nearly a dozen more.

"It feels like an explosion," he explains. "Starting out with five people to begin with, we've gotten a lot of support from artists and designers, and folks who wanted to come in and help. Volunteers as well.

"Now we've got a really nice base of people who are really excited to help us. Now we actually have the manpower to do all of the ideas we had. We could only do so much with five people."

Savannah Stage produces several touring shows each season — for schools and libraries — and has developed a local playwright series. It now has its own improv comedy group. Part of their manifesto (and it's a big part) is that everybody gets paid. Something.

They're always looking for talent, on both sides of the proscenium.

"The way we see it, everybody's got their own skill set," says Pridgen, whose title is Creative Director. "Everybody's at their own place in their artistic growth.

"We gravitate towards the people who want to grow. So even if you've never done a play before, that's not going to be a deterrent to us. Or if you don't have certain skills. If you want to learn, and you want to grow, those are the people who we continuously hire. Those are the people we keep going back to. Because that spark inside of someone is something that we feel like we can work with."

Last spring, the organization put on a lauded production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged. Old Bill stays in the spotlight for Summer Sonnets, a special one-off to be performed Saturday, July 27 in front of the Forsyth Park fountain.

"We got together a group of six to 10 people who all chose whatever sonnets they wanted to do. We didn't assign sonnets.

"It's just kind of evolved. When we did Complete Works, that show doesn't touch on the sonnets a whole lot. And they're just so well-written."

Here's the secret: "If someone wants to write a song around the sonnet, if someone wants to do a dance about the sonnet, if they want to just get up and perform it ... it's open to interpretation for whatever the individual artist wants to do."

Coming up in October: Henry James' The Turn of the Screw.

For Savannah Stage Co., the screw has turned faster — and more resolutely — than its founders could have hoped for. "I'm not really sure what we were expecting," Pridgen says. "We were just kind of going with the flow.

"Getting a Director of Advancement came out of necessity. Right after we got done doing Complete Works, we started working on establishing relationships with businesses, and taking care of our donors became a really important priority.

"It's becoming what it needs to be. That's what it feels like."

 

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