The show will go on ... to another stage

Randall Theater moves shows to NMHS because of leaks to downtown site's roof

Because of a leaky roof in its converted Medford warehouse, the 3-year-old Randall Theater will hold its first two or three productions of 2013 at North Medford High School, with hopes to be back at Front and Third streets by early summer.

Repairing a leaky roof is something you can't put off, as water soon gets into insulation and timbers, making repairs more serious — and that is what's happened, said Randall's managing artistic director Robin Downward.

He said the company and the building's owner are joining forces to welcome donations for tax writeoffs or in exchange for naming rights to parts of the space.

"We had a few leaks last summer and it could have been fixed with a plastic cover. Rain was getting in the green room behind the stage. We stapled tarps to the ceiling so patrons could see 'Scrooge, a Magical Musical' during the rains after Thanksgiving," Downward said. "One man had to put a towel on his head. We tried to refund his ticket and he refused, saying he had a great time."

Using the Black Box Theater at NMHS, Randall is partnering with theater teacher John Doty to stage "The Complete History of America (Abridged)" and "The Elephant Man" — and, if more time is needed for repairs, the Stephen Sondheim review, "An Evening on Broadway." The Black Box seats 75, compared with Randall's 57.

"After that, hopefully the weather will relent or the roof will be fixed," he said.

The theater put on 10 productions in 2012, running two weekends each — and this year, because of improved attendance, will put on 12 shows, running three weekends each.

It's important for Randall to return to the downtown, he adds, not just because it's the center of population, but because revitalization is coming together and "we want to be part of it." Downward said that as part of the "organic growth of the area, everyone helping one another," he's in talks with Palette Winery to combine theater with wine tastings and with Porters restaurant for dinner theater.

The theater is noted for being one of four in the nation, he says, that have a "pay what you want" policy, with a $1 minimum, usually netting around $10 a customer and charging $12 for reserved seating.

The average amount paid is around $10, though last summer, he had to draw the line on groups of 10 who tried to pay $1 for the group.

"It's a give-and-take program and some people try to take advantage, but they have to understand it takes money for the theater to continue," Randall said.

Next summer and fall, Downward plans to produce "The Great American Western," "Man of La Mancha," "Death of a Salesman" and "Black Friday," a lampoon of holiday shopping mania.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.


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