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New bricks on 'The Bricks'

Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s wildly successful Green Show — staged outdoors on “The Bricks” before evening shows — has outgrown its modest space, which is in the process of a $5 million expansion that will give it five times the ledge seating it has now.

Work on the remodel requires fencing off Pioneer Street between East Main and Hargadine during business hours, as well as the center of the OSF “campus” between its three main theaters. Access to Angus Bowmer Theatre will be restored when the indoor season opens Feb. 17, says festival General Manager Ted DeLong. It will be completely done in late spring, with access to the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theater and the Green Show stage.

The project, carried out by Adroit Construction, will make the grassy area slightly larger and steeper to improve sight lines to the stage. New ledges will be sprinkled around the area in an attractive and useful fashion. It will have new spaces for handicapped seating and wheelchairs, part of OSF’s multi-year “Access for All” campaign.

Students from Southern Oregon University’s Center for Sustainability will be "harvesting" old bricks from the project Saturday, Nov. 12, and Saturday, Nov. 19. The bricks be used for pathways and other projects at The Farm at SOU on Walker Street.

Local archaeologist Jeff LaLande, who did digs during the recent Plaza redesign, is digging several test pits, looking for Native American and pioneer history, as well as pre-contact fauna, but hasn’t found anything yet, he says.

“I don’t expect to find any Native American artifacts,” he said, poking a few feet under the bricks. “This is a hill, and we found native stuff on the flat, below, where their village was. Over a century ago, the OSF site was occupied by the Chautauqua dome, where the Elizabethan theater is now, and the Hotel Park, where the Bowmer Theater is." It was perched above Chautauqua Park, later renamed Lithia Park, he says. The digs may turn up remnants of the dome. 

The Green Show started in the mid-20th century as Renaissance dance and piping by performers in period costumes, adding atmosphere as theater-goers filed in. OSF Artistic Director Libby Appel in the late '90s and early 2000s began to open things up with Dance Kaleidoscope and live music, says DeLong. Community Producer Claudia Alick in the past decade enlivened the dimension to include just about any kind of music and dance — all of it free and open to the public.

“Modern, folk, traditional, you name it,” says OSF Associate Director of Communications Eddie Wallace. “It’s become quite the community event — and we’re making it more comfortable and accessible and increasing capacity to sit on something firm.”

DeLong adds, “It greatly improves the Green Show experience, but the wonderful part, the overarching benefit, is that you can’t come to the festival without traversing this space. We wanted a more comfortable and safe experience for all patrons.”

The grass will be about 100 square feet larger. The ledges will be all concrete, buff-tinted and more durable, he says. The bricks get a lot of vehicle traffic but needed to be set on concrete to keep from cracking and exposing sharp edges. The grass will all be new.

“It’s going to be more aesthetically pleasing and much safer and more accessible,” says Wallace.

The renovation design team is led by Walker Macy Landscape Architecture in association with Hacker Architects, both of Portland.

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

The brick courtyard where Green Shows are held at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is being expanded. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta