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Bowmer bounces back to 'Action!'

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Angus Bowmer Theatre is back in business.

The theater's reopening Tuesday came after a one-and-a-half month closure, during which engineers and construction crews worked to repair a cracked main support beam above its stage.

"This is by far and away the biggest crisis the festival has ever had to deal with in its 76 years of existence," said OSF Executive Director Paul Nicholson. "The fact that we are back in the Bowmer this early is pretty terrific."

The theater opened ahead of its construction schedule with a matinee performance of "Measure for Measure." Before the play, Nicholson and OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch greeted the audience from the stage wearing hard hats.

One day after the Bowmer's closure on June 18, the festival began performing restaged versions of the affected plays in the Historic Ashland Armory and Dorothy Stolp Theater at Southern Oregon University.

In all, the company put on 62 alternate-venue performances of the plays originally scheduled for the Bowmer. The first 31 performances were at the Armory and Dorothy Stolp with minimal set design.

The remaining 31 were performed at Bowmer in the Park; a 598-seat tent theater opened by OSF in Lithia Park on July 7. Special performances are also being staged at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater in Medford.

Bowmer in the Park shows had an average capacity of 82 percent, and generated about $650,000 in revenue for OSF, Richards said. The festival estimates the Bowmer closure will cost about $2.1 million.

The repair cost of the broken beam was about $330,000, said Amy Richard, OSF media and communications manager, with an additional $800,000 going toward the operation and construction of the tent. Another estimated $1 million was lost from ticket returns.

"I think the remarkable thing is that we kept the cost as low as that," Nicholson said. "We made the best decisions we could have with the information that we had "… And I think we consistently made the right ones."

The idea of reinventing Bowmer in the Park next year was tossed around in a few conversations within the company, Nicholson said.

"But we all agreed, never again."

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.