OSF hopes to slip past noise rules

Preparing to present plays in Lithia Park after a cracked beam closed the Angus Bowmer Theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is seeking an exception to Ashland's noise ordinance for sounds from its plays and air conditioning units at a temporary tent theater now being set up.

The Ashland City Council will hold a public hearing on the requested variance to the noise ordinance at a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. tonight at the council chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

On Monday, OSF employees and volunteers began spreading word of the meeting, emailing newsletters, contacting media and delivering letters to homes and businesses near the park.

Work is under way on a giant tent that will encompass a stage and seating for 600 on the lawn that usually hosts the festival's annual Feast of Will.

OSF officials said the opening date for the first performance at "Bowmer in the Park," as they have dubbed the temporary venue, will be made later this week.

The letter delivered Monday and signed by Executive Director Paul Nicholson and Artistic Director Bill Rauch explains that as the tent theater is erected, OSF is working closely with the city and neighbors to prevent problems.

The tent will be constructed with a liner to muffle sound, but some sound likely will spill out, the letter says. Air conditioning for the 66- by 112-foot tent also is expected to add to noise levels.

"While it is unlikely that sound will reach beyond the park, we can't be certain and we want our immediate neighbors to have an opportunity to share their thoughts with the City Council," an email newsletter from festival officials explained.

The letter to neighbors also noted that theater patrons will be reminded to park in the public parking garage and downtown lots rather than crowding the Plaza, Winburn Way and side streets near Lithia Park.

Back at the Bowmer, two structural engineers have decided that the best way to fix the 70-foot beam that cracked is by pinning, injecting epoxy and adding post-tension cables to it. In a news release, Nicholson said he expects the remediation of the beam and refitting the theater for performances will take four to six weeks.

Reach reporter Anita Burke at 541-776-4485 or email aburke@mailtribune.com.

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