OSF's production building in Talent nears completion

TALENT — Oregon Shakespeare Festival workers will begin to enjoy the benefits of a new, $7 million theater production building during October.

Props and furniture will be the first items moved in to the state-of-the-art, 64,500-square-foot facility on Talent Avenue. A phased move-in will follow, with costumes coming next, then setup of the paint shop. Ultimately, all set construction will be at the site.

OSF broke ground on the $7 million project in February. The metal building allows consolidation of operations scattered around Ashland and a paint shop in Phoenix.

"It is very much an industrial building," said Paul Nicholson, who stepped down as festival executive director last year but has been retained to coordinate the project he helped create.

From arrival of raw materials to shipping of finished products, the facility was designed to create a flow of work, said Nicholson.

Workers will find more space and labor-friendly features such as wooden floors in several production areas.

Three sets can be completely constructed at one time in a 9,832-squre-foot scenes shop. Presently, sets are built in pieces in Ashland then moved to the stages. Two sets for plays later in the 2014 season may be constructed in the new facility, but all set painting for next year will be carried out in Talent.

The scene shop features a 12-foot deep basement space where traps — devices to move people and props onto stages during performance — will allow technicians to see just how the sets will work when they go to the Ashland stages.

"It can actually replicate the traps in each of the three theaters," Nicholson said. "We can assemble the scenes and make sure it all works."

Roger Prehn, project supervisor for builder Adroit Construction, says the trap space is the most unique feature of the building from a construction viewpoint.

Water that accumulated in the trap space when it was dug required creation of specials drains, pumps and pipes. A contingency fund covered the cost and Nicholson said the project is within budget.

A steel shop takes up 3,039 square feet. OSF's sets require a lot of steel because a production can have up to 120 shows per year and sets can be moved 250 times.

"When you are building sets, you build in raw materials — lumber and steel," said Nicholson. "Lumber simply won't stand up to it."

There's also an area where props and pieces that move will be built. In "The Heart of Robin Hood" on the Elizabethan Stage this season, a banquet table moves forward on the stage at one point to set a scene.

Creation of mechanisms to move the props will be done in a 2,161-squre-foot machines shop.

A 6,651-square-foot paint area includes booths and plenty of working space. Because of its size, painters of backdrops will, for the first time, be able to stand back and gain full perspective on their creations, which will be attached to frames along a wall

While costume construction remains in Ashland, existing costume storage will take up more than 9,000 square feet. About 20 to 50 percent of costumes for a production are new, while the rest comes from the collection. OSF also rents out costumes to theatre companies across the nation.

Use of a 4,000-square-foot, second-story space created above offices and conference rooms has yet to be determined, said Nicholson. One option would be placing a call center in that location.

Existing buildings in Ashland will be used for rehearsals and the festival's education programs.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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