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Theater lovers come to Randall's rescue

Community theater lovers have stepped up and pitched in to raise $20,000 to support Randall Theatre’s spring season. The Randall had put out an urgent call for help in early March to keep the theater open.

A change in venue, from the old downtown Medford theater on Third Street to a new stage at 20 S. Fir St., brought new opportunities to the Randall and also an occupancy use change for the historic Palm Building. Because the building was built with unreinforced masonry, an earthquake readiness assessment was required, resulting in unanticipated architectural and engineering expenses.

In addition to sending an email request to supporters, the Randall posted to its Facebook page and shared the post with a couple of local arts-based Facebook groups. They boosted the Facebook post with a $30 investment, bringing the call to more than 17,000 viewers and thousands who shared and reacted.

“The Facebook post went viral, and people really responded. We didn’t expect that we were going to reach our goal, because we’ve never asked for help in this way before,” Robin Downward, Randall’s managing director, explained. “It was just a Hail Mary, and we’ll see what happens.”

Downward reported that more than 300 contributors supported the campaign; checks came in from all over Oregon and as far away as Florida and Wisconsin.

“Almost 20 percent of our 2019 budget went to unexpected and additional costs related to the new occupancy permit,” Downward said. “There were architectural and engineering analysis fees, upgrades to electrical, repairs to a beam, a rear exit.”

The unexpected costs were on top of regular expenses such as rent, power and water. Compounding the budget crisis, the January show had to be canceled, because of a Medford city mandate that temporarily reduced audience seating from 99 to 30.

“The good news is that we had a meeting with the building owner, architect, the fire department, city offices and got everybody on the same page,” Downward said. “Now we have our full occupancy of 99 seats.”

The full cost of the earthquake readiness renovation may be as much as $100,000, but the details won’t be clear until the engineers put a price to the architect’s retrofit designs. The Randall Theatre is hopeful that foundation grants and state retrofit funds directed to nonprofits will help to cover those expenses over the next seven years.

John Hamlin, representing JWH Properties LLC, is the owner of the Palm Building. “We totally support the Randall Theatre,” Hamlin said in a recent call. “The Randall was successful in finding funding and successful in accommodating the city’s change in occupancy use requirements.”

Fans and supporters of the Randall Theatre are invited to a “We Saved the Randall” party at the theater from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 6. The event will include free beverages and snacks, with Greg Frederick and Doug Warner on guitars.

“Theater means so much more to people than I even knew,” Downward said gratefully. “It’s wonderful to know that the Randall has touched so many lives.”

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Robin Downward, the Randall Theatre Company founder and executive director.