OSF collects $2.6 million in insurance from Bowmer closure

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has received more than $2.6 million in insurance payouts for damages it sustained during last season's six-week closure of the Angus Bowmer Theatre.

"It's a huge relief, because it gives us an opportunity to put ourselves back in a strong financial situation," said OSF Executive Director Paul Nicholson.

The festival received a $328,295 check last week for the cost of mending the Bowmer's main beam that was initially heard cracking during a performance of "Measure for Measure" on June 17, Nicholson said.

Another check for $2.34 million was given to the company to cover lost revenue associated with the Bowmer closure.

Nicholson said the theater company is still negotiating with Great American Insurance Co. for about $900,000, which would settle its $3.58 million claim.

The unsettled balance would mostly reimburse costs sustained by the festival while moving 31 originally scheduled Bowmer performances to other venues in Ashland, some of which were free for ticketholders, while the theater was closed from June 18 to Aug. 2, Nicholson said.

The unsettled amount would also go toward reimbursing OSF for erecting "Bowmer in the Park," a 600-seat big top tent the festival installed in Lithia Park to house the Bowmer's displaced performances during the last three weeks of July, he said.

"In this crisis the thing that has amazed me and that I've been so gratified by has been the way so many people stepped up to lend their help," Nicholson said. "Within our company, within the community through volunteers, local government and police, and of course the parks commission, everybody has stepped up to support us."

Nicholson said OSF hopes to settle the entirety of its claim around the beginning of May.

With an annual budget of about $32 million, the company tries to keep 15 percent to 20 percent of that amount in financial reserves, said Nicholson. The $3.5 million financial blow the festival took last season cut that $6 million reserve in half, he said.

"That puts us in a somewhat vulnerable situation," said Nicholson. "But we're pretty much going to be back to where we started when this (the claim) wraps up."

The closure of the Bowmer was responsible for more than $2.4 million in lost revenue, $328,000 for repairs made to the 70-foot-beam that cracked above the theater's stage, and $867,000 for setting up Bowmer in the Park and hosting performances at alternate venues before that, the release said.

Nicholson, who plans to retire at the end of the 2012 season, said in no way did last year's financial setbacks negatively affect this year's performances.

Although Nicholson praised this season for being "adventurous" and "exciting," he said he would rather his final year with the company unfold less hectically than last year.

"I am ready for this year to be way less exciting than last year," he said with a laugh.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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