Saturday, March 29, 2014

3/28/2014 Trolley Stop #2 - Savannah Theater

Old Savannah Theater

     Trolley stop #2 on the Old Savannah Tours is Chippewa Square, the home of the Savannah Theater.  This is the oldest continuously operating theater in the United States having opened its doors in 1818.     

     On arrival, we are greeted by Jeffery Hall, the creative director for the tours playing Johnny Mercer, the famous song-writer and music businessman.

Jeffrey Hall

     The show doesn't start until 8:00, but in the meanwhile there are a lot of interesting things about.  In the lobby of the theater are photographs of the theater in the late 1800's and mid 1900's. . .

..and the famous actors who played here in years long past.

Edwin Booth

     You will notice Edwin Booth is pictured - the brother of James Wilkes Booth.  I mentioned something about shooting at the show tonight, and one of the hostesses told me that referring to taking pictures as shooting in a theater where the Booth's hung out might not be the best choice of words.  

     But the show doesn't start for a while, so we can wander the square for a bit.  If you like people watching, these squares that are all about in Savannah are the perfect venue.

     I have been making it a point to sit and chat with the homeless folks I see about in Savannah, and across the square I found Sam Campfield.

     Sam is quick to show me his prosthetic leg that he wears due to stepping on a "bouncing betty" in the "Tet Offensive."  That interprets to "he stepped on a land-mine at the height of the Vietnam War."  The city and the homeless seem to have a pretty good agreement worked out.  The city has several shelters, but the will not tolerate begging.

     So, none of the homeless ask you for money, but, like anyone else, they have a story and they love to talk.  And they all call you "sir" or "Ma'am" - they might be the most polite homeless in America.  I had a few cup-cakes and some cigarettes, so Sam's friend Glen Chisholm was quick to join.  A cup-cake and a cigarette was like Christmas in March to him. 

     Sam was quick to offer me a belt of his whiskey in return.  He seemed offended when I said I didn't care for one and offered again.  "Nah, I tried that booze before," I said.  "I found out I am allergic."  He looked shocked to hear about my issue, and asked me more about it.  Yeah, I told him, I gave it the college try back in the day.  But every time I drank I broke out in handcuffs.  Well, these two boys about peed their pants laughing about the poor Yankee boy and his affliction. 

     But, he got me back.  He told me the sad tale of a time when someone stole his prosthetic leg.  He had me buying into the tale of misfortune until he informed me that the incident made him "hopping mad." 

    Well, dusk has fallen and it is showtime.  I never even asked what the show was about - I figured I would rather it just be a surprise.  And a good show it was.  The theater does all of its own casting, choreography, costumes, script - they produce the whole show.  And since several of the owners are actually in the show, it really creates a home-town family feel. 

     It turns out to be a musical variety show, and they play numbers from about eight decades.  There are old show tunes and Italian Opera clear up through eighties music.  The band and the singers are really quite good.

     They change clothes to match the style of the band or singer they were imitating; I got worn out just thinking about all the costume changes they had going on.  It seems like there were fifteen or twenty in a two hour span.

    There were a bunch of others, but you get the idea.  The theater seats 525, and the performance brought down the house.

     After the show, the performers all line up by the door to thank the patrons.  I met co-owner Mike Zaller, who you will recognize from the performance.  

          So, Old Savannah Tours trolley stop two - Chippewa Square.  It was the core location for Forest Gump, and it has this historical and charming family owned and operated theater.  Don't miss it when you tour Savannah.

Happy Saturday !!

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