New theater to benefit SOHS

History lovers and drama lovers hope a new partnership will boost the fortunes of a theater group in Medford and the struggling Southern Oregon Historical Society.

SOHS will support the Second Stage Community Theater by allowing the theater to use historical sites for some of its events, as well as objects from the society's collection of artifacts.

Robin Downward, the theater's artistic and business director, said he wants to provide a community theater that will be "something that's not just for me, but something that will go toward the betterment of other organizations."

The two organizations will stage their first joint event, "Dr. Maximillion's Museum of Unnatural History" from 6 to 10 p.m., Oct. 27-29, and from 6 to 11 p.m., Oct. 30-31 at the Jacksonville Museum, corner of Fifth and C streets, Jacksonville. SOHS agreed to provide the venue if Downward provided special effects, script, manpower and set-up.

The proceeds will be split between the SOHS and the theater.

Downward created a fictional story based on a 19th century hanging at the courthouse in which a spirit seeks vengeance. Dr. Maximillion, described as a mix of Edgar Allen Poe and Dr. Frankenstein, will guide museum visitors through history and the haunted passageways of the museum.

The theater and the historical society partnered out of a mutual need to build financial support. SOHS is in the midst of restructuring after losing Jackson County funding. The theater wants to raise about $100,000 over the next year for lights, costumes and a temporary space while acquiring nonprofit status.

"I think it's reachable and a good starting point toward a permanent home," Downward said.

Once the theater has a temporary location, Downward said he hopes to produce four or five musical and comedy shows per year and also host living history-type festivals and events such as a Victorian Christmas festival with help from SOHS.

Downward said the cooperative arrangement will "sneak theater into people who wouldn't normally be interested in theater," and give the Southern Oregon Historical Society the opportunity to showcase its assets.

The historical society sees the agreement as a way to remind people of its presence.

"We don't want people to think we've disappeared," said Allison Weiss, executive director of the SOHS. "We want to still be out there in the public eye."

"I am very excited about doing this," Weiss said. "It's very different from what we've done before."

Reach intern Teresa Thomas at 776-4464 or at

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