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Shakespeare Festival ticket revenues are up 23 percent

ASHLAND — The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's ticket sales are up 23 percent over the same time last year, putting the festival in a position to possibly beat its revenue record set last season, the executive director said Tuesday.

"I am absolutely not willing to make a prediction — we've still got 31 weeks left of the season and it's just too early — but we're certainly hopeful," said Paul Nicholson, OSF executive director.

In its first five weeks, the festival has sold 6,500 more tickets than last year, he said. The two theaters with plays running have been 92 percent full on average, compared to 74 percent full at this time last season, Nicholson said.

"I'm just delighted with the numbers as they currently stand," he said. "It's looking very promising, particularly in light of the economy."

Last week the festival's ticket sales were especially strong, boosting theaters to 98 percent of capacity, as many students on spring break visited OSF with school groups, Nicholson said.

The festival budgeted for a 6 percent drop in ticket sales this year, Nicholson said. However, advance ticket sales show the festival is up about 1.3 percent over last year, he said.

Last season, OSF saw the highest attendance and revenue in its 75-year history. The 410,034 festival attendees brought in $17.01 million.

This season's budget is $26.8 million, about $700,000 higher than last year's budget. The festival increased its budget for some of the larger productions and for musicians, featured in "She Loves Me," "Ruined" and "Pride and Prejudice."

OSF also budgeted more for actors' salaries this season, because it is employing additional members of the Actors' Equity Association, a union for typically more experienced actors, Nicholson said.

The festival has included money in its budget to give salary increases to its company members, but will only dole out the raises if revenues are high enough, he said.

OSF has sold about 61 percent of this season's tickets, Nicholson said.

"Hamlet" and "Pride and Prejudice" have sold the most tickets so far, he said. "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," which runs only through July 4, is also popular, he said.

The festival has sold about 60 percent of the tickets to "Ruined," which opened last week, Nicholson said.

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.