Theater's name is rooted in history

I've loved going to the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater for years, but something has always bothered me. What gives with the name? The Ginger Rogers Theater by itself sounds fine, so why add Craterian? It just sounds awkward.

— Dave S., Medford

Haven't lived here long, have you, Dave? Or did you forget your local history?

Back in the day, it was Hunt's Craterian, a vaudeville theater, that derived its name from Crater Lake. That's what they called it when a 14-year-old girl named Ginger Rogers danced there in 1926.

Little Ginger went on to great fame and fortune, and in 1940 she bought a ranch upriver from Shady Cove. She was one of the first big celebrities to call Southern Oregon home, for at least part of the year.

In the early 1990s, Rogers helped kick off the multimillion dollar fundraising campaign to restore the theater. She died in April 1995, before the renovation was finished.

Within weeks, a Medford couple, Charles Gorr and Loraine Hart, launched a petition drive to include Rogers' name on the theater marquee, and some 3,300 people signed on. A longtime friend of Rogers wrote a guest opinion in the Mail Tribune supporting the idea, and things just took off from there.

By the fall of 1995, the board of directors of the Craterian Performances Company unanimously agreed to the name we know it by today: Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.

At the time, Lynn Sjolund, the company's executive director, told the Mail Tribune the new name was an effort to strike a balance between fans of Rogers and those with fond memories of a theater they affectionately called "the Crate."

The theater with the funny name reopened, in March 1997. So, Dave, every time you say "Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater" you can impress your friends with your knowledge of Southern Oregon history. Or, like many of the rest of us, you can just call it the Crate.

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