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Randall in peril

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Unless it comes up with $20,000 by March 20 for upgrades required by city codes, the 8-year-old Randall Theatre in downtown Medford will have to fold, says Executive Director Robin Downward.

The do-or-die financial emergency came up in late 2018, when the theater got hit with expenses for seismic retrofits, permits, engineering study and architecture work in its effort to change occupancy from retail to an event space at 20 S. Fir St., says Downward.

The expenses in the last quarter dealt a 30 percent blow to this year’s budget. The seismic concerns limited seating in Randall’s high-grossing Christmas show and the first show of this year.

The all-volunteer, nonprofit theater company is asking patrons to come and see the current show, “A Comedy of Tenors,” running through March 17, and become members of the theater in hopes of making bills.

Its board of directors, new last year, is in the midst of a membership drive and gaining corporate and foundation support, but those are expected to come to fruition in late summer and can’t be looked to for meeting current needs, Downward says.

“We’ve been a self-reliant nonprofit theater company, living off ticket sales and having no payroll, and for any theater company to do that is incredible,” he says. “It would be a shame for the theater to go. It’s served a wonderful purpose and brought years of joy and fun that we shared with patrons. Many children grew up here learning theater and are now working in the business.”

The theater’s 5,000-square-foot home was built in 1919 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. As such, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency is interested in preserving and helping fund upgrades, he says, but that’s a long-term project that can’t help much with the current money shortfall.

Downward says profitability is also hampered by the “unfortunate stigma” that downtown Medford is not a safe place. He says he hears it often from patrons, though “it’s just not the case and we’ve never had a problem all these years.”

He says when the theater performed in Jacksonville for a year, attendance went up 20 percent, most of it from Medford. “The homeless are always an issue, but till you change that perception of downtown, you’ll always have that stigma.”

As a retail space, the building is regulated for a relatively small number of people, but making it an event space — with up to 150 inside — “triggers a range of regulations,” Downward says, especially around seismic retrofitting. He estimates seismic work would possibly cost $100,000.

The city has been “congenial and supportive” during the process, even offering to spread seismic fixes over seven years, but “it’s an unfortunate state of affairs that were unknown to us when we got here,” he says.

Downward notes that any donations given during this crunch will be refunded if the theater does not reach it's goal of $20,000.

To help, contact the Randall at 541-632-3258. For more information, visitwww.RandallTheatre.com.

Reach Medford freelance writer John Darling at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Robin Downward, the Randall Theatre Company founder and executive director, says the theatre is danger of closing.
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