…with a capital P

Jun 19, 2011 | 1 comment

Yellow Tape Around The Bowmer

     So there we were in the inner above at the Elizabethan Theater when disaster struck yesterday here in Ashland.  We were on the Backstage Tour with a group of thirty other Festival goers listening to the intricacies of set changes when our tour guide was called out of the room for a moment.
     “We’re going to have to leave,” he said on his return.  “This space is needed suddenly, so if you’ll just follow me.”
     And out we filed, through the backstage maze, down the stairs and into the sunlight of the courtyard – the area often referred to as “the bricks” by Oregon Shakespeare Festival insiders.  Our guide, David Salsa (who plays Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mockingbird”) counted us as we exited and called, “My group all clear!” to a nearby woman wearing a headset.
     Almost immediately we were asked to move farther away from the building, at which point David said to us, “Actually, I lied.  There is some sort of structural emergency happening on the roof of either the Elizabethan or the Bowmer and they wanted to clear the theaters for safety.”
     The theaters he referred to were, of course, the Elizabethan Theater (built in 1959) and the Angus Bowmer Theater (built in 1970).  They are structurally tied together in the backstage area where we had just been.  In fact, ten minutes previously we had been sitting in the ‘green room’ shared by actors performing in both theaters.  It’s where they hang out waiting for entrance cues during their offstage moments.
     We had fifteen minutes left of our tour and David made sure we got our money’s worth, not only giving us the rest of his guided tour spiel, but also answering our questions and telling us a bit about next year’s Festival plans.  Before we dispersed, we were also told that the problem causing us to be evacuated was apparently structural damage to a supporting beam in the Bowmer.  The yellow tape was already being placed to secure the area.
     Fortunately for us, we had  seen the two shows in the Bowmer that we had tickets for.  But there were hundreds – probably thousands – of patrons holding tickets that weren’t so lucky.  We had just been told (as we sat in the Bowmer toward the beginning of our tour) that it seats 601.  Last night’s and today’s performances have been cancelled until structural engineers can assess the situation.  After that is up for conjecture.
     Meanwhile, refunds or vouchers were being offered at the box office even before our tour finished up.  Last night, the cast of “Mockingbird” presented a ‘concert performance’ – which, I’m surmising, is probably a step or two up from a readers’ theater presentation – at the Ashland Armory three blocks up the street.  Ticket-holders were invited to attend if they wished.
     Later, as we sat outdoors at the Members’ Lounge, we  watched partially costumed pirates disappear toward Lithia Park and return fully wigged and made-up as curtain time for “Pirates of Penzance” approached.  Dressing rooms for both the Elizabethan and the Bowmer are underneath the Bowmer stage, near the Green Room — off limits now even to OSF personnel, actors included.  Obviously, makeshift was the order of the evening.
     From our theater-goers perspective, it was all seamlessly handled – Professionalism with a capital P.  It’s not as if emergencies of this magnitude can be planned for or rehearsed, yet the OSF personnel didn’t seem to miss a beat.  We heard, too, that the ‘powers that be’ had been at a meeting in Los Angeles and were on their way back to confer with the safety experts.  They should be justly proud of their organization and the coping skills of their personnel.   A class act all the way around!

1 Comment

  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Too bad that there were problems with the theater. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books and movies!


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