by Robin Beaudoin | photos by Loreana Rojas
“My first cover ever. This is extra special for me.” Savannah Bearden is no stranger to the public eye, with a decades-long career of acting and producing in the Memphis area under her belt. Bearden’s talent spans the full range of the theatre and film scene, though her greatest talent is engaging in the community, through the contribution of her talents.
Tell us about Loaded for Bear.
Loaded for Bear… I came from a background in video production. I worked for my dad for five years editing with him at the William Bearden Company. I edited his documentaries alongside him.
I did children’s theater from age five. That background, my theater background as an adult, and learning the video production side of it gave me this aha moment! I thought, I can combine the two and do shows that are entertaining at two different levels. I helped Indie Memphis back in 2011 doing their awards show, to make a boring awards show more interesting and help have the audience stay involved.
You’ve done video for Focus Mid-South as well, correct?
When I reached out to Ray Rico after learning of the first Focus Awards, incorporating LGBTQ, activism, and awards, I thought, these are my three passions, I have to help! Growing up in midtown, we had gay neighbors, took vacations with our neighbor Hal, and had a lesbian couple across the street. Gay was normal in my life.
You are always visible at the LGBTQ events; where did you meet your friends?
I joined the Emerald Theatre Company as a youth, and they were the only gay theatre group in town. My neighbor was a founding member of it, and it was like a rebirth for me. I met all these gay guys and thought, ‘These are my people! These are the people I have been looking for!’ It was a renaissance for me, and I wanted to be in the scene as much as possible, and to this day, they’re still my peeps.
I’m so lucky in that I have a wide, diverse group of close friends, and they don’t necessarily know each other, but they all overlap on that venn diagram in the sky. I have that to thank for why I’m so active and out all the time. I get to be a part of things without having to try.
What’s next for Loaded for Bear?
LFB is kicking off a huge marketing campaign for Crosstown Concourse for the last several months I’ve lived and breathed it. It’s personal to me because my fiancé and I are getting married there in October.
We are working with the town of Wilson, Arkansas, where we are taking this small town and figuring out what the next 150 years of this historic town looks like. They want to be innovative makers. I’m talking to townspeople and “Leslie Knope-ing it up” a little bit.
Hattie B’s is our client, and they’ve been with us since they started in Nashville, and we are so happy to have them here now and to help bridge that Memphis- Nashville divide, dispel any rivalry between the two cities.
I work with LeBonheur Children’s Hospital and some of their events, working with Kelly English.
Who else do you work with?
I’m active with WKNO, I do their pledge drives on TV several times a year, which is fun, because they’re always plugging some kind of upcoming event. Like Celtic Woman–I did get to meet the most recent iteration of Celtic Woman at the Orpheum.
Indie Memphis, our local film festival (top 25 in the country), I’ve worked for 7 years (the next will be only two weeks after my wedding) I wanted to be a part of it, though I’m not a traditional filmmaker, because I have so many dear friends in the filmmaking scene.
I went to the previous director of Indie Memphis and asked if I could do their awards show. Ever since then, I’ve tried to top myself. I brought in Chris Parnell, we have had Rick Trotter of the Memphis Grizzlies, and about half of the shows I always write in my Indie Memphis dancers – five of my best guy friends – and have them dance as interstitials.
You’ve made a name for yourself with the Breakup Show.
Breakup show has had six all new shows and three best-ofs. In Emerald Theater Company, after years, we were in a slump and needed a show that was affordable or free, and needed it in just a few weeks. I had the idea, inspired by the Yahoo personal ads, and we read them in the character we dreamed wrote them, using funny voices. And people would send us breakup stories, and the material was free. We just keep upping the ante with video sketches and character development for the people we read, making it cathartic for the person submitting their breakup. Bruce Bui gets to be in drag, and it’s just a fun, crazy part of the show. Breakup Show was founded at the New Daisy but started at Theatreworks then held at the Crosstown Arts location, water tower pavilion, with small shows at Studio 688 over on Cox, and 1884 at Minglewood.
Our ideal would be to do two shows of 200, so we try to knock it out with the house band, six cast members, and pick a big day and get it done. It’d be nice to get a huge room and do it up where everyone can see and breathe. We did a reboot of our last show to benefit Planned Parenthood, and going forward we’ll keep the show a benefit production. We are toying with a politically based breakup show this summer, and make it a fundraiser for local politicians who are running.
I am able to give my talents. It brings me a lot of joy. I want people to know that I am that kind of resource. I am here for your good cause and can either help or hook you up with someone who can.
I’m, like, really amazing (she jokes). You’re welcome for this interview (wink). I excel at silliness and humor. I like to be entertained and I like to make things that entertain me.
Entertaining, she is!