The Savannah Repertory Theatre has not put on a play since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a change in leadership is pointing to a bold new direction for the company when it becomes safe to perform again.
The latest Executive Artist Team consists of Executive Artistic Director Ryan McCurdy, Managing Director Jenn Bishop, Associate Artistic Director Nick Corley, and Artistic Advisor Sandra Karas.
Ryan McCurdy is an award-winning Actor-Musician, Music Director, & Composer based in New York City. McCurdy was part of the Savannah theater scene between 2000 and 2010 before he moved to New York City.
For the past ten years, McCurdy has performed on and off Broadway and around the country, and in 2018 he received the Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Actor in a Lead Role for his work on "Greencard Wedding." McCurdy is looking forward to returning to the city he fell in love with and sharing his theater experience with the community.
"It seemed like an incredibly good moment to pull Savannah Repertory into their next generation," said McCurdy. "Literally, we’re not coming back into a new season from a summer break. The world has undergone this massive shift and we’re reinventing what every theatre does for its community and I wanted to be at the forefront of that."
McCurdy spent the last ten years working on productions with massive budgets and came to the conclusion that the only difference between New York theater and Savannah theater is the amount of money and time poured into it.
"I want to bring the ability to raise those resources to Savannah for their artists, because I think a lot of people go to New York because there is this assumption that there is a higher level of talent and I’m here to say that the only difference is the resources. Savannah’s talent pool is on par...it took my years in New York to realize how exemplary Savannah’s community is."
The Savannah Rep currently boasts a staff that represents every level of professional performing arts.
"We have Broadway performers and directors on the staff, we have folks that worked in the major off-Broadway incubators, the Tony winning regional theaters," explained McCurdy. "We’re bringing all of this to share with Savannah, predominantly because we would love for Savannah to have a place in the national conversation of theater the way that Savannah Music Festival and SCAD Savannah Film Festival have this beautiful, copacetic relationship with the national conversation."
McCurdy hopes to expand on Savannah theater by inviting established actors to essentially have a vacation in one of the most beautiful cities in the world while collaborating with local actors to help them springboard their careers.
"It’s being able to bring in those extraordinary guest artists and let them get to know our community and its artists, and I think that push-pull is going to make some great things happen for people."
McCurdy would also like to see Savannah Rep do more community outreach by bringing their singers and performers to senior centers and schools.
"That was also the goal of the artistic team that I am succeeding, but I know that I’m in kind of a perfect moment because they spent four years getting the quality of the productions high enough that the audiences trusted them and now I get to come in and play and expand because they’ve laid this incredible framework for it," explained McCurdy.
Being an equity and union theater, Savannah Rep does not plan on opening until it is absolutely safe to do so.
"We cannot open until Broadway opens because that is the flagship for the union relationship nationally, and it means we have to be very deliberate when we reopen because we owe it to our audience to get back up as soon as possible because people need theater to decompress from their lives and they’re going to need it even more in the coming months," said McCurdy. "But, we also have a responsibility to our audience and our company members to wait until it’s safe and to have our national mandate about how to create a safe work environment."
In the meantime, patrons of the performing arts can support Savannah Repertory Theatre through their ongoing Ghost Light fundraising campaign.
For a donation $100 or more, supporters can have their names put into stones that will pave the way to the theatre entrance. The campaign will continue until September 1, upon which time they will lay down the stones.
"We’re trying to show our dedication to the next 5, 10, 20 years in Savannah," said McCurdy. "By putting peoples names in our walkway we want to show that we have no intention of going anywhere no matter how battered we are by COVID."