The Final Act?

Just like the title character in her play that will be read starting Friday at the Bellview Grange, Jeannine Grizzard is hoping to receive a message from the afterlife.

The artistic director of Ashland Contemporary Theatre wants to hear not from a dead husband like the character in "Twenty-third Joy" — but from the now-defunct Bellview Grange.

The grange closed in early October after 80 years of service at 1050 Tolman Creek Road, and unless it is brought back to life, ACT will have to find another space for future shows.

The approximately 15 remaining grange members in Ashland are working to reopen the historic service club early next year, but they need more community participation, said Joanna Wnorowski-Pecoraro, master of the Bellview Grange at the time of its closure.

"We hope the grange will come back," she said. "We really need new some members. There were just a few people doing all this on a volunteer basis. We didn't quite have enough officers."

The Oregon State Grange, which governs the Ashland grange, revoked the Bellview Grange's charter in early October.

Wnorowski-Pecoraro said she was not able to discuss the reason for the closure, but she said it was due at least partially to declining membership.

"What's occurred with a lot of fraternal organizations is there's been a drop off in membership, and these groups are trying to figure out what's next," she said.

The master of the Oregon State Grange, Larry Rea, could not be reached for comment Monday. In the organization's October bulletin he wrote briefly about meeting with the Bellview Grange members.

"It was my sad duty to revoke the charter of that Grange," he wrote. "It was an emotional event for all of us."

The organization is honoring any contracts it made with community groups, such as ACT, but those contracts expire at the end of December, Wnorowski-Pecoraro said.

She and the other grange members hope to enlist more members this winter and to ask the Oregon State Grange to reinstate its charter in late January or early February, she said.

The theater company, which invested $1,500 in the grange building's stage in July, would like to hold productions there next year, Grizzard said.

"We'd very much like to play at the grange next year," she said. "Ashland is hurting for affordable stages to rent, and we finally found one."

The theater company began holding shows at the grange in November 2009, after holding shows in a variety of community spaces, including the Pascal Winery and Ashland Middle School.

Grange members support ACT's use of the building, Wnorowski-Pecoraro said.

The grange opened in 1930 at its location on Tolman Creek Road, Wnorowski-Pecoraro said. It was initially developed as an agricultural organization for farmers, she said.

"We don't have as many people farming in Ashland now, so we're trying to figure out what's next," she said.

In recent years, the organization put on pancake breakfasts, participated in service projects and provided meeting space for a variety of nonprofits.

The Oregon State Grange is part of The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, a fraternal organization founded in 1867, following the Civil War.

Although times have changed significantly since the grange was established, Wnorowski-Pecoraro is hopeful that the Ashland branch of the organization will continue. She would like to see the grange become a center for people interested in gardening and sustainability, she said.

"I think there is enough interest in food and sustainability and organics that we could use the grange for teaching food preservation and also let different groups use it," she said.

After this weekend's theater performance, the grange will likely be silent for at least a month, Wnorowski-Pecoraro said.

"I don't know the last time this grange was completely quiet," she said. "Sometimes it's good for things to take a siesta, or a rest. I just hope we can get started again next year."

For more information on the grange or to volunteer, call 541-482-6692.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456, ext. 226 or

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