Theater closure costs OSF $2.1 million

The closure of the Angus Bowmer Theatre because of a cracked support beam has cost the Oregon Shakespeare Festival an estimated $2.1 million in repair costs, lost operating revenues and expenses for erecting a substitute tent theater in nearby Lithia Park.

It's not clear yet how much of the costs will be covered by insurance. OSF has insurance for property damage as well as for business interruptions, OSF Executive Director Paul Nicholson said Thursday.

"The unknown is what the insurance will cover," he said.

In the short-term, the costs are being covered by OSF reserve funds. The festival is also making arrangements to have access to a line of credit in case that is needed, Nicholson said.

Repairing the cracked support beam cost about $500,000. The 601-person capacity Bowmer is set to reopen on Aug. 2, OSF officials said.

Erecting the 598-seat "Bowmer in the Park" tent to house displaced performances cost about $600,000, including related expenses of creating an alternate venue, OSF officials estimated.

OSF has lost about $1 million from giving out refunds for canceled performances in the Bowmer and for charging lower prices for tent performances, OSF officials estimated.

After the cracked beam was found the morning of June 18, the theater was evacuated. A rehearsal had been taking place.

One matinee performance there was canceled, but OSF members scrambled to put on all other performances on Historic Ashland Armory and Southern Oregon University stages until the tent could be erected in the park.

OSF offered refunds or vouchers for those who didn't want to exchange their Bowmer tickets for the alternate venues, and early performances of the restaged productions were offered for free to those who had bought Bowmer tickets, even if they'd received vouchers or refunds.

Although OSF officials know they have lost $1 million from those refunds and for lower tent theater prices, Nicholson said he doesn't know how much money OSF lost from people deciding not to come to the festival after news broke about the cracked beam.

"We don't know what is the fallout from the beam in terms of people not making reservations," Nicholson said, noting that OSF saw a dramatic drop-off in people making reservations in the days after the beam cracked.

The "Bowmer in the Park" tent has been at an average of 79 percent of capacity since it opened on July 7, although that average includes a night when a performance had to be canceled because of a power outage, OSF Media and Communications Manager Amy Richard said.

In contrast, the Angus Bowmer Theatre was at 101 percent capacity during the same time period last year.

"But keep in mind, not only were we in the Bowmer, but we were running "Hamlet," "Pride and Prejudice" and "She Loves Me" — all hugely popular plays," Richard said.

OSF had a record-breaking year in 2010.

OSF's intimate indoor New Theatre is at 93 percent capacity for the year to date, the same as last year. The outdoor Elizabethan Stage is at 80 percent capacity so far this year, down from 85 percent at this time last year, Richard said.

This year, OSF extended the running time of its stage adaptation of "To Kill A Mockingbird" by partnering with Medford's Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater to take performances to Medford throughout July. That play wrapped up in Ashland on July 3.

The Medford performances haven't sold out, but they've done well, Richard said.

OSF has also added performances of "The Pirates of Penzance" on its Elizabethan Stage and performances of "Julius Caesar" in its New Theatre.

The first added performance of "The Pirates of Penzance," a popular musical, took place on Monday and was at 98 percent capacity despite drizzling rain on the outdoor stage.

"Other 'Julius Caesar' and 'Pirates' performances are yet to occur, and they are not sold out at this point, but we hope they have good houses by the time of the performances," Richard said.

"Julius Caesar" will run through Nov. 6 and "Pirates of Penzance" will run through Oct. 8. OSF stages 11 plays each year.

Nicholson said costs for adding performances are significant, but the revenue potential is greater than the costs. He said he doesn't have a figure yet for how much extra income the added plays could bring in.

"We've been focusing on just getting them on," he said.

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Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at or 541-479-8199.

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