Old theater building to become a 'patent farm'

TALENT — A move up Wagner Creek Road for the former Camelot Theatre building won't mean the end of its role as a theatrical venue — just a change of offerings.

"One of the great ways of teaching is theater," said Chris La Due, an inventor who will use the former feed store to educate others about new scientific perspectives and how they may impact everyday life.

Renamed Conundrum Theater, it will be part of La Due's Holophasec Technologies Group Ltd., a think tank or "patent farm."

La Due signed a contract with Talent's Urban Renewal Agency Monday to move the structure, which housed Camelot until the theater company moved earlier this month into its new home next door to make way for the extension of Main Street to West Valley View Road.

The building will travel about 1.5 miles from the corner of Main Street and Talent Avenue to the former Beeson nut ranch, where La Due has located his business. There it will sit next to a 3,500-square-foot barn that once housed nut-processing machinery but is being converted for use by the company.

Distinctive, rough, wood siding on the old theater building appears to be a near-perfect match to that on the barn exterior.

"We figure it might be from the same saw mill," said La Due, who had planned to construct his own theater. "All of a sudden the opportunity came up to get the old theater."

Without a move, the old building would have been demolished. The move will save urban renewal at least $10,000, TURA Director Marla Cates estimated. La Due paid $10 for the building and he must also clean up the site.

"He clearly loves the building and has some very unique ideas as to how to use it," said Cates.

Doc's Home Moving Inc. of Grants Pass will cut the structure into three sections for the move. La Due is paying $48,000 for the move and construction of a foundation.

La Due hopes to move during July and August, when ground at the 22-acre farm will be firm. He plans to leave the theater arrangement largely as it is and hopes to start using it by the end of the year.

While most presentations will be by invitation, La Due plans to hold events for the community.

"They'll be a lot of fun, but you might learn something in the process," said La Due.

Built in the early 1950s, the 40-by-60-foot building has also been home to the Minshall Theater, which produced melodrama, and Actor's Theatre, which was later renamed Camelot. It was also a second-hand store.

New technologies for desalinization, gas engines, electric motors, solar energy and communication are among areas that La Due, who holds more than 60 patents, and his colleagues are exploring. They want to spread information about their work.

"The theater is perfect," said Adam Reed, an engineer and product developer who works with La Due. "Chris is passionate about bringing what we do to others."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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