Letter at Length

What's in a name? A modern tragedy

The Goatie Foundation has been generous to one of the worlds most worthy causes — we thank them. But naming the theater after a business man instead of Patton and Turner, the founders, is a real life tragedy.

Peter Thomas was an exceptional member of the OSF management team. He acted on civil liberties, social responsibility, and bringing people together for a higher purpose. He was a great wit and he raised a lot of money for OSF.

Would the Allen family want Paul Allen's name on the building that represents what he accomplished in life, or the name of a fundraiser that worked for him? Is OSF now a sports stadium, named after the highest bidder?

A further twist to this bad plot is that the Allen family wanted The New Theatre specifically to be named after a human being, not a corporation or their family. It was and is a great gesture generations will benefit from.

The question around town is, "Why should big money have the say about what the theater is called, when we built the theater in the first place?" Another theme is "This is corporate theater now, get over it."

Fortunately, Angus Bowmer, Jerry Turner and Bill Patton didn't dedicate their lives to being named on theaters, however just it is. Bowmer had the dreams and gift to engage people. Patton had the producing and money-raising skills that made him a national arts hero.

Jerry Turner wasn't just at the right place and time — he put OSF on the artistic map. His speeches on theater alone were literature comparable to the Bard. Turner got farmers from four states to bring their families here, not to mention Portland, Seattle and San Francisco and round-the-world elites.

The festival further distinguishes itself by having been built by a town and not a drama school, one famous person, or individual philanthropist. That's unique among first-rate classical theaters in the world. There's your monument.

If the festival costs so much to operate that it's up for sale, OSF has lost its purpose. And despite all the charity and good intention of big donors, the festival is still a theater that any average family of four on summer vacation cannot afford.

Eventually the name of the Bowmer Theatre could be shared and renamed. Surely a billionaire will appear to rename even the festival itself. And theater joins the other major arts that are all about money now, but that's show business.

Leah Ireland


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