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New leader aims to reopen Holly Theatre

A leadership change at the Holly Theatre may help lift the curtain on the final act of a decade-long drama to reopen the iconic Medford venue.

Paul Christy, the interim executive director of Jefferson Live!, who was interim executive director for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, said he hopes to get major construction started this spring on the interior and open the 1930-era Holly by the end of 2021.

“The goal is to launch the project and get it open as soon as possible,” he said.

Randy McKay, outgoing executive director of Jefferson Live!, which oversees the Holly, and the Cascade Theatre in Redding, is heading off to a new job on the East Coast but is working with Christy on the transition through the end of the year.

“It was such a natural fit that I can’t tell you how relieved and excited I am that Paul Christy said yes,” said McKay. “I’m quite confident Paul and his fundraising efforts in the community will create the secret sauce to get this project moving forward.”

McKay, who has been executive director since 2013, said he couldn’t disclose the location of the new project he will be working on because the organization hasn’t released the information yet.

Christy is getting up to speed on the Holly’s budget, and a new set of bids will be coming back in January that will give a better picture of the fundraising gap.

The Holly is expected to cost about $11 million to remodel but is some $3 million shy of that amount.

Christy said his focus will be to start major construction as he reaches out to the community for the dollars needed to complete the project.

“I’m hoping to bring the same thing to the Holly and Jefferson Live! that I brought to OSF,” he said.

About 10,000 people have toured the Holly over the years. In addition, some 3,000 have donated to the restoration effort.

Christy said the support shows the community is very interested and motivated to reopen the restored Holly, which will offer music and other performances that will enhance the live entertainment already available in the valley.

Work on remodeling the Holly started in 2011, when Jefferson Public Radio purchased it as city leaders talked about razing the dilapidated structure. JPR had previously remodeled the Cascade in Redding. After a lengthy dispute was settled between JPR, Southern Oregon University and the Oregon University System, a separate entity was created to deal with Holly and the Cascade known as Jefferson Live!.

The Holly is no stranger to drama, having opened in the depths of the Great Depression. In 1986, the interior was largely gutted. Restoration efforts have been underway in fits and starts over the past decade. Many of the items needed for restoration, such as lighting and other fixtures, have been given back by the community to help with the restoration effort.

The goal is to make the building look like it did when it opened in 1930, but with air conditioning, modern lighting, an elevator and better bathrooms. Some of the interior work on the front portion of the building has been completed.

Over the past decade, the estimates to restore the Holly have ballooned. Initially, the price tag was estimated at $4.3 million. Now it’s almost three times that amount.

Christy said he enjoys tackling big assignments and said he wants to develop a flow of work that will ensure the doors open quickly and construction doesn’t stop.

Despite the fires of last summer and the pandemic, Christy said he hopes to build relationships with donors in the coming months.

He said once a vaccine is widely available, he expects the Holly to take off like “gangbusters.”

Christy said the Holly will enhance the musical offerings already available from the Britt Festival and the Craterian Theater.

“I see it as a complement to what’s in the valley,” he said.

Christy said he will likely transition out of his role with Jefferson Live! once the doors are opened.

In addition to steering OSF through leadership changes, wildfire smoke and the pandemic, Christy is a former chief operating officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration and was an economist for seven federal agencies, traveling to more than 40 countries on assignment for the government. He lives in east Medford with his wife, Teresina.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Paul Christy, the interim executive director of Jefferson Live, hopes to get construction started this spring on the interior Holly Theater in Medford.