Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s “Little Beam Incident”

A weak structural beam inside the Angus Bowmer Theatre cancelled performances in late June 2011. They were able to re-open in early August.

A structural beam in the theater suffered damage and engineers determined it needed to be reinforced. Festival officials were concerned about the possibility of the beam collapsing. They say they have never had to close a stage in the middle of a season.

When the Angus Bowmer Theater had to be closed because of structural problems, festival organizers took a cue from their actors and improvised. As they say, the show must go on. Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage”, but during the closure of the Angus Bowmer Theatre, all of Ashland was a stage.

OSF moved performances to the Historic Ashland Armory and Southern Oregon University’s Dorothy Stolp Theatre while they fixed the weak support beam in the Angus Bowmer. The change in location didn’t stop fans from lining up for the shows. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival even held performances in Lithia Park on a tent-covered stage.

The festival says the closure of the Angus Bowmer Theatre that summer because of a crack in the support beam resulted in more than a million dollars in lost ticket sales. More than $300,000 was spent on repairs, and $800,000 was used for a tent in Lithia Park and other alternate venues.

In 2012, an insurance company paid OSF millions of dollars to help replenish funds lost from last year’s beam incident. The money isn’t going to just help cover the costs of the beam repair, but other costs accrued along the way.

Executive Director Paul Nicholson says the insurance payout came back to the company in two checks. The first one was a little over $328,000, which will go towards the beam repair. The second check was $2.3 million to cover other costs with alternative venues and lost revenue.

Nicholson also says he’s grateful that the community quickly joined together to get the Oregon Shakespeare Festival season back up and running last summer. Local restaurants by the OSF theatre, which also took a hit last summer, say business has already improved and is expecting the summer of 2012 to be even busier.