TALENT — There's not a more congenial spot than Camelot, the old song has it, and there's not a more congenial spot for Camelot Theatre Co.'s new home than smack next door to its old one in downtown Talent.

TALENT — There's not a more congenial spot than Camelot, the old song has it, and there's not a more congenial spot for Camelot Theatre Co.'s new home than smack next door to its old one in downtown Talent.

A $300,000 gift from a Medford arts patron has pushed Camelot's fundraising campaign over the $1 million mark. The campaign was launched a year ago with a goal of raising $2.6 million to replace the company's existing 106-seat theater in a one-time feed store with a shiny new, Art Deco theater seating 164.

"The support has been incredible," Camelot founder and artistic director Livia Genise said. "This gets us close to being able to talk to the major foundations."

Many grant makers will talk with nonprofit organizations only after they've raised half their goal.

The $300,000 was a gift from James Morrison Collier, of Medford, whose name will be on the new building.

Ground breaking should take place in June, Genise said Saturday.

The city of Talent plans to poke a road through the site of the existing theater after demolishing the structure in June of 2011.

Camelot, represented by board member Rich Gleitsmann, of Ashland, and the Talent Urban Renewal Agency, led by Executive Director Marla Cates, began negotiations in 2005. In November of 2009, TURA purchased Camelot's lot and building for $543,000, the pre-recession market value of the land and building, and leased it back to the theater company for $2,500. TURA gave Camelot a $10,000 technical assistance grant and bought the land for the new theater for $176,000. TURA is also paying for in-ground improvements, including electrical and plumbing on the site.

Under terms of the deal, TURA owns the land and Camelot will lease it back for $1 a year for 10 years with an option to lease for another 10 years or buy it at any time.

"They didn't want us to leave Talent," Genise said. "Every time we hit a problem, they were incredibly creative."

Bob Phillips, of Medford, who chaired Camelot's capital campaign, said Collier, an arts patron, will hand his pledge to Genise tonight at a special Valentine's show at Camelot.

Collier taught high school English, including Shakespeare, near Bakersfield, Calif., for many years and began visiting the Rogue Valley for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He came into an inheritance, moved to the Valley seven years ago and began donating to arts groups.

"It's exceedingly culturally rich for a very small area," he said.

Phillips, who has an international background in fund development and capital investment, said the fundraising campaign is proceeding according to plan.

"You have to present your case," he said. "Jim is a pretty big giver to the arts."

He said he's working with one foundation he won't name that always puts its money in last.

Camelot's eight board members pledged $100,000, and the campaign has raised $155,000 in other pledges.

After paying off its existing mortgage, the theater has $480,000 cash on hand, Genise said.

Actors Theatre was founded in what's now Camelot by Michael O'Rourke in 1993. Genise came on board in 2001, and after some changes on the board, the enterprise was reorganized into Camelot Theatre Company, and Producing Director Doug Warner joined in 2005.

"We think she's so totally awesome," Phillips said of Genise.

Collier, who travels widely and frequently, said he's planned his schedule for this year so as to not miss anything at Camelot. He saw the current production, "Moon Over Buffalo," Sunday and again Thursday.

"It was so funny and so entertaining," he said.

The new, wheelchair-accessible theater will comprise three pre-engineered steel buildings, according to architect Bruce Richey, of Ashland.

TURA, which gets tax-increment financing and received a state grant of almost $1 million for the deal, is scheduled to sunset in 2016, when the city would become Camelot's new landlord.

Genise said Camelot will start its 2011 season in the present building in January of 2011 and move to the new one in June of 2011 in time to open its summer musical.

"Something like 'Sweeney Todd,' " Genise said, "something that can be done with a bare theater. All you really need is this one set piece that revolves with a barber shop upstairs and a pie shop downstairs."

Bill Varble writes about arts and entertainment for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4478 or e-mail varble.bill@gmail.com.