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OSW hires artistic manager

Oregon Stage Works head Peter Alzado has named Steve and D.W. Wood of Ashland to coordinate the development efforts made possible by an $80,000 grant from the Meyer Memorial Trust.

The Woods are a husband-and-wife team who run Wood Creative, an advertising and public relations agency, and who started the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

The grant, which was announced in November, provides $40,000 this year and $20,000 each of the next two years, but the later installments will be paid only if certain goals are reached, such as increasing attendance from 5,000 in 2008 to 6,000 this year.

Alzado says the theater in Ashland's A Street Marketplace, founded in 2004, is ready for the "next stage of development."

The grant requires that the arts manager, the title stipulated by the trust, write grants and work on board and audience development. It does not specify a dollar amount of grants.

In addition to the usual challenges facing all small theaters, the Woods are facing a terrible economic climate.

"That's safe to say," Steve says.

Audiences may be pinching pennies, and foundations, hit with lower returns on portfolios, are cutting grants.

The couple say they don't have a lot of specifics yet.

"We've just been hired," D.W. says, "so we're in the information-gathering stage. We're hoping to put together a business plan for the February board meeting."

The theater, which is just a few blocks away from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which sells nearly 400,000 tickets a year, produces a six-play subscription season of classic and emerging American plays, offers year-round drama instruction for children and teens, and sponsors the OSW Playwright's Unit for writers creating new plays.

The theater's productions have ranged from "Waiting for Godot" and "The Crucible" to "The Great American Trailer Park Musical" and several world premieres. Alzado says he expects the theater to increase its focus on new American plays as it grows.

Alzado says he'd like to see the Woods raise at least $40,000 this year.

"We'd like to continue the position in addition to expanding the theater," he says.

D.W. says ideas being kicked around include cooperative advertising, more targeted ads, setting up an advisory board to build regional and national connections ("We did that with AIFF," she says), and creating a brand that people think of when they are thinking about what to do.

"We're trying to bring business sense to the theater," Steve says.

Alzado figures OSW has several advantages in competing for grants in a tough environment: more original works in the pipeline, the children's component and Playwright's Unit.

The Meyer Memorial Trust was created through the personal philanthropy of Fred Meyer and is not connected with the retailer of that name.