OSF makes repair plans

ASHLAND — The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will begin setting up a temporary tent theater and stage in Lithia Park sometime in early July, as construction crews mend the Bowmer Theatre's broken main beam.

The exact date that the festival's productions will begin at the park's Feast of Will lawn is undetermined, but everyone is working to make it happen as quickly as possible, said Amy Richard, OSF media and communications manager.

The festival is working with two tent companies, which are combining resources to bring OSF the 600-seat tent — which will measure about 66 feet by 120 feet — and discussing how its production will look in the new venue.

"It's going to be different from what occurs in the Bowmer, but as far as how different, I don't think we can say at this moment in time," Richard said. "I don't think we will really know until it gets here and we begin setting things up."

Inside the Bowmer, OSF has been working with Adroit Construction and two separate structural engineers, who are collaborating on how to best remediate the theater's cracked wooden beam, which was discovered on Saturday.

Since inserting two temporary vertical support beams beneath the cracked main beam on Sunday, OSF has explored three options for the theater's final repair.

The plans being considered include inserting two 44-foot steel beams on either side of the existing beam; inserting a 60-foot beam beneath the existing beam, to run its length and provide support; or pinning and adding support cables to the existing beam.

Paul Nicholson, executive director of OSF, said in addition to Adroit and its two engineers, the festival is working with an international company that specializes in mending fractured structural beams. He declined to name the company, saying no contract had yet been signed.

"None of our plans require the removal of the roof "… or removing the beam," Nicholson said. "They believe that they can restore the structural integrity of the building by restoring the existing beam "… in fact, after being repaired, they have said the beam will be 20 percent stronger than when it was first put up."

Nicholson said he expects the theater to be repaired in four to six weeks.

The festival has scheduled an additional 11 re-staged versions of its productions at the Historic Ashland Armory and Southern Oregon University's Dorothy Stolp Theater, where versions of the canceled Bowmer plays have been held throughout the week.

Only festival patrons who have tickets to the canceled Bowmer performances are able to attend the re-staged readings.

"We believe this is a win-win situation for OSF and the community," said Nicholson, in a press release. "We can now move forward and create an experience that will be powerful in all of our memories."

Sam Wheeler is an Ashland Daily Tidings reporter. Reach him at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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