The Historic Savannah Theatre happens to be one the oldest continually operating theaters in America. Since the year 1818, the Historic Savannah Theater has entertained many of its tourists and locals alike. Due to multiple fires, the structure has been both a live performance venue and a movie theater. Since 2002, the theatre has hosted regular performances of a variety of shows, primarily music revues.
Matthew Meece, who is a cast member and one of the owners of the production company, helped renovate the theater in 2002 and continues to produce the shows. Meece sat down with Do Savannah, along with his wife Michelle, to talk about the future of the theater.
Both Matt and Michelle have been a part of every show since 2002 along with F. Michael Zaller, Shannon Zaller, Bill Stelzer and Gretchen Kristine Stelzer. The three couples were a fixture for the Savannah Theater, but as with most things, nothing ever stays the same.
"Both Bill and Michael had great job opportunities which took each of them and their family closer to their extended families," Matthew Meece said. "Bill had an opportunity in Nebraska and Michael had a chance to take over his father’s business in San Francisco, and you know, we have been doing this since our 20s. Then COVID-19 forced us to close our doors and it made everyone’s decision and transition easier."
"It came at a time when we were thinking about making changes and this is only forcing us to make those changes now. We have a few performers in mind to recruit, including a talented young performer named Justin Reynolds. We sat down with him and he is full of great ideas and so vibrant. I think he would be a great addition along with his friend Alex Hairston, who at one point toured the country with the Donna Summers musical production and played Summers," Michelle Meece added.
"We needed to reinvent ourselves. We had been talking about making those changes and this was a good time to reevaluate because obviously when theater and live performances come back, it is going to look very different," Matthew explained.
At the moment, all Broadway shows in New York City have been canceled through September 6. The Savannah Theater is facing its challenges as well; not knowing when it will be the perfect time to re-open.
"I don’t wish to be the first one to say let’s go back to work and be the first to open amidst this confusion," Matthew said. "We do not win by being first with this virus. We win when we know it is safe for our audiences and cast members to comeback and enjoy the show safely."
In the meantime, Matthew and Michelle Meece have plans to bring life back to the theater while they wait for the next curtain call.
"A friend suggested the opening of a café and seating area in our lobby and on the front of the theater," Michelle said. "We do have the space and we thought we could also offer some local ice cream as well as beer and wine during the hot summer days. So many tourists walk by our theater we are thinking allowing them to see the inside of the building on a hot summer day might be welcoming."
"I am looking into getting the rights for a few of old classics so they can be played on the screen during the day," Matthew added. "My vision was, you know it is hot outside, you get a cup of coffee or whatever beverage, browse the lobby of the theater and catch a bit of the film, and continue your leisure walking around the historic area. We can then historically return to one of the previous uses of this building."
The opening of the café and lobby area are scheduled for the end of June.
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