Two SCAD professors and more than 100 students have collaborated for a unique piece of performance art celebrating Savannah.
Back in the early years of their careers in film and television, Andra Reeve-Rabb, dean of entertainment arts at Savannah College of Art and Design, met Mark Tymchyshyn, SCAD chair of performing arts, through their work on “The Gregory Hines Show” (1997-98) when Reeve-Rabb was the director for prime-time casting for CBS-TV and Tymchyshyn was cast as Alex in the show.
Then about 10 years ago, their paths would cross once again on the campus of SCAD. And, since that time, the two have worked with thousands of students, produced a live sitcom and produced hundreds of other student-led projects on campus.
Their latest collaboration, the annual Savannah Songs event, is a unique mix of live, interactive entertainment where musical theater meets historical preservation with the spotlight on Savannah. This year’s Savannah Songs event will take place close to Georgia Day, with six performances from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 2.
Guests of the Savannah Songs event will begin their experience at Trustees Theater, then they are led across Broughton Street to the Gutstein Gallery, followed by Jen Library and ending at the Lucas Theatre.
According to Reeve-Rabb, all locations will feature interactive participation between guests and SCAD students and this is the second time the university has produced this event.
“The very first Savannah Songs was the idea and vision of President (Paula) Wallace,” Reeve-Rabb explains. “She wanted to spotlight everything that makes SCAD special and include the historic buildings the university owns, shining a light on our historic preservation program, … the history of Savannah and our amazing student talent.
“... We bring all of that together to celebrate Georgia Day.”
She says each performance at selected SCAD locations spotlights a moment in the life to the building “so the building is also like its own character in each performance. … We wanted to bring the building to life through song. And it’s such a wonderful moment to step back into history through these songs.”
And Tymchyshyn agrees, “We invite everyone to see how wonderful those buildings are and to see the high level of talent in our students.”
Music, including live bands/orchestras, will represent the music from each era spotlighted at this family-friendly event.
The hour-long performance begins at Trustees Theater. Reeve-Rabb says the time period is Valentine's Day 1946, when the boys have arrived back from the World War II. The performers will be dressed as members of the Mighty Eighth Air Force and the soldiers will be joined by their sweethearts who were working in Savannah shipyards, factories and victory gardens during the war.
Then guests will the cross Broughton Street to Gutstein Gallery where guests are taken to the 1960s when the space was the Azalea Room restaurant. The performance centers around a moment in Savannah’s Civil Rights history when three African-American high school students took part in a sit-in at the whites-only lunch counter.
Reeve-Rabb says performing arts student and former American Idol winner Candice Glover will perform and Tymchyshyn adds this is a performance you won’t want to miss.
Then everyone will move next door to the Jen Library, which used to be Levy’s department store. The performance will showcase the 1950s and fashion of that time period. Guests will be treated to a sock-hop performance and get a glimpse of vintage dresses from SCAD’s permanent collection.
The event wraps up at the Lucas Theatre, which originally opened in 1920. Guests will be treated to a vaudeville performance and popular candy from that era. Another performing arts students will headline that performance of George Lovett from "ShowTime at the Apollo."
The professors say Savannah Songs features a collaboration of more than 100 students from different programs who created and shaped this event, including writers, sound design, performing artists, film students and more.
“Our goal is to really celebrate the city of Savannah,” Reeve-Rabb adds. “We also reference community leaders and happenings from the past of Savannah.”
And Reeve-Rabb says honoring Georgia Day is a high priority for SCAD that also includes the Women’s Hall of Fame in historic Arnold Hall on Bull Street. The exhibit pays tribute to Savannah Women of Vision. The installation, created by SCAD alumnus Michael Porten, features large, classic bas-relief sculptural portraits of Georgia heroines who helped shape Savannah. The display will also be open to public to visit on Feb. 2.