Welcome to our newest feature, 'Remember When.’ This is a chance for Savannah art veterans to reminisce on some of their favorite events in the city’s history. Whether it’s a concert, theater production, festival, visual art show, dance production, or comedy show, Savannah has a long history of memorable art and now is as good a time as any to look back on some of the best.
Today, we’re catching up with local legend Chris Soucy—actor, filmmaker, theater director, improv performer, and all-around artist. Soucy is maybe best known these days for his work with Savannah Shakes and Odd Lot Improv.
Let’s go way back to 2008, and the final Savannah Shakespeare Festival.
What was the Savannah Shakespeare Festival?
It ultimately wasn’t actually a festival as much as a single production that was mounted annually that brought scores of Savannahians to Forsyth Park, and actually other squares prior to that. I was involved in quite a few of them over the course of 12 years, but the one that I will focus on was the last one in 2008.
Instead of being a single show, it was scenes and interpretations from Shakespeare’s works revolving around the word love. The call went out to all the arts groups in the area and so many companies came out to play. They included Abeni Cultural Arts; All Walks of Life (AWOL); City Lights Theatre Company; Ensemble Con Spirito, Little Theatre of Savannah; Cardinal Rep; Savannah Children’s Theatre; and Spitfire Poetry Group.
What made this one particularly special?
It was truly a community theater extravaganza. I think it was a night of love. Love of Shakespeare, love of Savannah, and love of each other. And personally, it was the first time I met and worked with Justin Kent who became the other co-founder of the Odd Lot Improv with me.
At that time in Savannah, what do you remember most about the arts scene in general?
It was a time of unprecedented growth for Savannah. We were in this boom of international focus for tourism. And it was a tumultuous time for local theater, Savannah Children’s Theater was well on the path to being the reliable and dynamic company it is today, but City Lights and the Little Theater of Savannah were shrinking away from producing regularly.
Cardinal Rep was still a strong presence but only had another year of producing ahead of them at the time.
The Muse Arts Warehouse, which would furnish a home to established and burgeoning arts organizations was still two years from becoming a reality. It was the wild west for performing arts.
Do you remember where you were at in your career by this point?
I had been a produced playwright and working screenwriter for some time at this point. Savannah is a near-perfect backdrop for a writer.
Is there one moment from the 2008 festival that sticks out in your mind? Why?
The entire thing was a marvel to behold. It was so much fun to watch and participate. If I had to pick one thing that truly stood out in my mind it would be the narrator, Alan Landers, whom I have had the pleasure of working with on numerous occasions. He was always so wonderful to watch. His presence was always stellar.