Camelot reborn

TALENT — The stage is set for a smooth opening of the new Camelot Theatre building after the company received permission to officially move in several weeks ahead of schedule.

The city issued a certificate of occupancy for the new James Morrison Collier Theatre Building on May 5, after several months of work from Ashland's Adroit Construction Co. was completed at the end of April.

"They were ahead of schedule the whole time," says Artistic Director Livia Genise. "Adroit has been amazing."

The new theater, designed by architect Bruce Richey, offers a much larger stage, 60 more seats, higher ceilings, more bathrooms and actual dressing rooms — a far cry from the current venue, a 1950s feed store with low ceilings, limited bathrooms and a dressing area in an attached trailer.

"We do have one bathroom backstage, but you can't flush it during a show," Genise says.

Camelot learned more than three years ago that its theater was in the path of an extension to Talent's Main Street and would have to be demolished or removed, but the idea of building a new theater didn't seem possible at first, as there were no reserve funds.

"We dreamed the impossible dream," Genise says. "It's always been a miracle."

The Talent Urban Renewal Agency bought the 0.3-acre lot next-door for a new theater building with plans to lease it to Camelot for $1 a year, but the company ended up buying it from TURA in December for $174,000 to secure a construction loan.

The rest of the $2.4 million building was funded through a handful of grants and more than 350 separate community donors.

Medford arts patron James Morrison Collier, whom the building is named after, pledged a $300,000 donation last February to get the fundraising campaign over the $1 million mark.

The new theater will boast state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, improved heating and cooling, and high enough overall sustainability to qualify for "gold" certification as a small commercial building from the Earth Advantage Institute.

The 8,600-square-foot theater is spacious and bright, and more than three-and-a-half times bigger than its 2,400-square-foot predecessor next door.

The early finish to construction allows Camelot extra time to prepare for coming shows, including "Spotlight on Nat King Cole," the first production in the new theater, showing June 2-12.

"We planned this as a 'soft' opening to work out any kinks, but we are confident that everything will go smoothly," Genise says.

The grand opening will take place with a production of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street," which will run June 22 to July 24.

"Some performances of both shows are already sold out, so the public is clearly eager to see the new space," Genise says.

Camelot is finishing its last show at the old theater with "Crimes of the Heart," which ends May 22.

Demolition of the old building was originally scheduled for June 1, but was postponed after at least one investor showed interest in moving the building and preserving it.

"It would be emotionally satisfying for a lot of the people here if this building is repurposed," says Camelot Marketing and Development Director Anne Bellegia. "It has had such a life."

Reach Southern Oregon University reporting intern Teresa Ristow at

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