If you’re one of Savannah’s more than 12,000 hospitality workers, chances are you’ll be missing out on plenty of entertainment. Instead of throwing drinks and clearing tables every Friday and Saturday night, you’d no doubt rather catch a band or laugh at some stand-up.
If missing out on live entertainment has been driving you crazy, rest assured, because this Monday, Front Porch Improv is preparing a comedy night just for you.
Get ready for “Surviving Starland,” when some of Front Porch’s funniest players team up with local servers and bartenders to deliver another helping of interactive and competitive community comedy.
Best part? It’s FREE for all service workers and just $5 for everyone else.
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The idea has its genesis with Front Porch actors Meagan Johnson and Deshawn Mason. After their weekly performances, they would go to one of Starland’s bars, still giddy from the show. The couple would enthusiastically share with their bartender what it was like.
“At Moodright’s, we were showing up on this top that you only get for playing,” Johnson recalled. “And I was talking, and Deshawn was talking, and because we went there so often, we just befriended the bartenders who were like ‘that’s cool, but we work weekends, too bad we can’t be there. And that’s when I realized there had to be a way to make a show for our friends in the service industry, so they could be part of the fun too.
Johnson and Mason brainstormed together to come up with a format that goes something like this: Four teams of two — a trained improv actor paired with a service person — compete for points in improv-based theater games. Teams earn points through audience engagement, so the loudest cheers become points for a team.
After several rounds, audience participation and cheers, the catering worker from the winning team has the opportunity to tell a true story that becomes the starting point for the final improv set of the evening.
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The evening is fast and very interactive. And while most food and drink contestants have never been trained as enhanced actors, they do receive a bit of coaching during pre-show rehearsals.
Reno Gooch, bartender at Black Rabbit, appeared on the first installment of “Surviving Starland” in September. Mason, who frequents the bar and restaurant, invited Gooch to be part of the party.
“I was incredibly nervous at the start,” Gooch pointed out. “I do on stage and in film, but the enhancement is totally different because there are no lines, you can’t do another take of something. We did some rehearsals, which helped give an idea of what it would be like, but once you’re on stage with an audience, that’s how it all goes. And it was really fun, you just had to go. I felt like we were part of cast and crew, and the audience got into it. They loved it.”
Deshawn Mason, a trained improv actor and comedian, landed in Savannah in early 2020 before the pandemic and shutdown. Hailing from Charleston, he was thrilled to find that the hostess town had a thriving comedy scene. What started in 2017 as an improv meetup group – meeting regularly at Ghost Coast Distillery, Bull Street Labs and The Sentient Bean – Front Porch Improv continues to grow and pave the way for more comedy in Savannah .
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“It’s funny, I got here around the same time Front Porch had a permanent theater (February 2020) and then you know what happened next and how it all came to a screeching halt,” said explained Mason. “But we’ve all stuck with theater and comedy, and we’re in it, thriving. What I love about “Surviving Starland” is how it’s a highly interactive evening where people get to know and encourage other members of the community.
For Monday night’s performance, Mason and Johnson reached out to servers and bartenders at Moodright’s, The Black Rabbit and The Sentient Bean. Another Monday night “Surviving Starland” performance is scheduled for November, and then the plan is to continue monthly through the New Year, although nothing is locked into the schedule yet.
“The most important thing in my experience was that Front Porch is its own strong community,” Gooch said.
“And they brought together two very different communities, Front Porch and the local bartending team, to make this event competitive in a lighthearted and incredibly fun way. It was fun to be able to tell my co-workers that I do this stuff, and then my co-workers could show up because it was a Monday night. It’s just something you have to live to understand because all night, anything about it, is a win.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO
What: Survive Starland
Where: 210 W. Victory Drive, Savannah
When: Monday, October 24 at 8 p.m.
Cost: free for workers in the service sector; $5 general