Robin Downward

Actor and entrepreneur Robin Downward is planning a big-themed, theatrical event for downtown Medford in October called Shriek-Toberfest 2010. His ongoing project is establishing the community-based Randall Theatre Company, whose mission has expanded to include art therapy programs. When we met recently at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center, Downward gave me an update on Shriek-Toberfest 2010.

RD: It's sort of a traditional walk-through-type haunted house with a lot more theatrics to it and a lot more lighting, sound and plotline. It's this interactive, creepy experience with iconic October characters. The interactive experience expands the boundaries of the theater crowd. The audience is subjected to theater through these events, even though they don't know it. If I can sneak theater in somehow and entertain people, then my job has been done.

I want theater to appeal to more of the community than to just the small crowd that goes to theatrical productions. It needs to reach outside the boundaries of the theater for more people to appreciate the art that goes on. I want to bring theater into people's lives especially through tying the Randall Theatre Company to Shriek-Toberfest 2010.

EH: Why are some of us so attracted to theater?

RD: It ties us to our childhood. When you were out on the playground, in a tree fort, or in a forest with your friends, or even by yourself, you were out there pretending. You could be whomever you wanted to be, you could do the things you wanted to do, and there was that childlike freedom. You were not playing for a crowd, you were just out there pretending. That was a time when you could just create and not have boundaries. It was a release and it was fun.

When I perform, I want to do it because I enjoy going out on stage, delving into the character, really making it come to life, and have it be entertaining from that standpoint. If that is done well, then of course the audience is going to enjoy it. Actors who concentrate on doing something for an audience are taking themselves out of the character; they're not into it enough.

Good, solid actors who are acting, not from an ego standpoint, but because they genuinely love the process and the craft, are doing it because they want to extend that time when you could just create without boundaries. And that is what draws actors to continue doing what they love to do. If you strip everything away, ego, audience, everything, why would you want to do it? Because it's ultimately freeing to be somebody else for a time, and to relish that. That is the important part for me.

It goes back to the best times when you were a kid when you were out pretending and exploring and doing all those things. There is a big tie-in with theater because theater people still tend to keep that child-like quality, whereas a lot of the people in the business world have left that behind. Theater people tend to be easier to talk to. They tend to find it easier to talk, just like kids.

Shriek-Toberfest 2010 is set to run Oct. 19-31 in a warehouse at Front and Third streets in downtown Medford. Downward is accepting volunteers in all areas, including acting, singing, music, costuming, set creation and ushering. Go to, or telephone Downward at 541-227-4601.

For more information on getting involved with the Randall Theatre Company of Medford, e-mail or

Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director living in Ashland. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at

Share This Story