Crews are erecting steel support studs in preparation for repairing a cracked beam in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Angus Bowmer Theatre. At left are the two wooden studs erected immediately to keep the beam from collapsing. - Bob Pennell

Show of support

Repairs on the cracked main beam that has closed the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Angus Bowmer Theatre since June 18 will begin in earnest on Tuesday with the arrival of Western Wood Structures Inc. of Tualatin.

"We're excited to get to help out," said Steve Turner, president. "We know how important it is to the community, so it's sort of a drop-everything-and-get-down-there type of deal."

Crews have spent the past week and a half preparing the Bowmer's overhead wooden support system for the repair. Adroit Construction of Ashland is setting up two steel support studs beneath the main beam and one below each of the nine beams that connect to it from the back of the theater.

After the studs are set and the beams are detached from each other, the entire support system — totaling more than 200,000 pounds — will be lifted about a half-inch, using the steel studs as jacking posts, said Frank Campoy, a superintendent with Adroit.

Brent Matthias, who handles structural repairs for Western Wood Structures, said the lift is designed to take the pressure off the crack, which runs nearly the length of the 70-foot main beam. After each of the beams is suspended, the crack will be patched with wood filler. About 130 to 160 holes will be drilled down its length and through the crack, then filled with rebar and epoxy, which will act as reinforcement.

After its repair, the beam is expected to be stronger than when it originally was put up, said Turner.

He said it'll take a crew of eight to 10 woodworkers two to two-and-a-half weeks to finish the repair, depending on the amount of overtime the crew works.

The festival will need more time before it can reopen the theater, however, as "extensive" work will need to be done by OSF staff before the Bowmer is suitable for hosting productions again, said Paul Nicholson, executive director. He said the company is hoping to have the theater open in four to six weeks.

"We can be nothing but pleased with how everything is happening so quickly," said Amy Richard, OSF media and communications manager. "All of the organizations we are working with have been hugely cooperative, collaborative and amazingly ready to come to our assistance."

Although there has been no definitive answer as to what caused the beam to crack, structural engineers believe that the method by which the nine roof beams were connected to the main beam — below the halfway point of the connecting face — may have contributed.

"That was probably just fine to do when they were building it," Matthias said, "but the way those beams were connected is not in compliance with today's typical construction standards."

Over the years, the festival used the beam as a partial support for an above-stage catwalk and to hoist stage sets and lights, but those items came nowhere close to testing the beam's load-bearing capacity, Nicholson said.

"The load that is on the beam is well within acceptable limits of the beam as originally designed," he said. "The beam will be brought up to current building code standards, and we are more than satisfied that it's going to do what's needed of it."

Sam Wheeler is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or email

Share This Story