The Crippling Burden


The Milepost 97 wildfire is severely impacting not only the area residents but also the local businesses. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, a non-profit organization based in Ashland, is an attractive destination during hot summer months. However, the smoke spreading all over Southern Oregon urged the festival organizers to think in advance and move the plays indoors in case of bad air quality. 

Festival representative, CJ Martinez, explained that the previous year was especially harsh. Namely, the festival experienced a loss of $2.6 million last year. Out of that amount, $2 million was due to smoke problems as the festival’s yearly report indicates. The organizers were forced to cancel as many as nine plays in 2018. Seventeen more Allen Elizabethan Theatre outdoors shows were pushed into Ashland High School due to the fire smoke.

But for 2019, the organizers were aware they needed a back-up plan. 

Reaching the Agreement

In 2019, the OSF has concluded an agreement with the nearby Mountain Avenue Theater. The theater is in the OSF’s vicinity (approximately one mile away) and possesses padded seats as well as an air-conditioner. In case of bad air quality, which may impact the outdoor shows, they will be moved inside.

That was precisely the case with the weekend’s shows. As Martinez explained, the plays scheduled for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were all played indoors.

The Innovations

Planning ahead in such circumstances is an innovation from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In previous years, the smoke problems were tackled on a daily basis. But now visitors who might have covered a long distance could now watch the show regardless of the quality of air. The sole difference is that the show will take place indoors instead under the open night sky. 

Oregon State has also assigned $70,000 to the OSF to help equipping indoor theaters with HVAC as well as air filtration systems. The money originates from the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund. At present, a survey is examining an optional cover for the Elizabethan Theater or some other modifications that will help them deal with smoke issues. The Theater will discover the survey results in six-month time.

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