Play company in the midst of a banner year
By Tony Boom for the Rogue Valley Times
Camelot Theatre has purchased a lot behind its building in downtown Talent, which will allow for eventual expansion to add needed rehearsal, office, storage and work spaces.
Camelot bought the land for $155,000. The organization is looking at using the area before it begins an addition for other purposes, possibly offering a location for food trucks.
The move comes as Camelot is in the midst of what might become its best year yet for both audience numbers and fundraising, said Executive Director Dann Hauser.
“It’s come up for sale a couple times. We decided to make a strike and buy it. If we didn’t pick up the lot now, we may not have been able to again,” said Hauser.
The theater was able to use its own resources to make the purchase.
Camelot now owns the area bordered by Talent Avenue, Main Street, Seiber Street and Broadway Alley. The current theater building is 14,000 square feet. A projected two-story addition would add about 6,000 square feet to the structure.
Camelot currently rents spaces for rehearsals, as the only space available in the building is smaller than the main stage, said Hauser. The stage is often taken up with construction of sets for the next production. Moving rehearsals into the theater would save money.
Increased storage space would allow storage of sets for future productions instead of selling pieces, storing them off-site or, in some cases, disposing of them. The theater currently operates with just two office spaces. A multimedia space is also needed along with increased costume storage.
Design work for the addition is underway. A fundraising campaign is likely, but there is no timeline on when that may occur, said Hauser. In the meantime, the theater is consulting with past donors.
“We are in the process of having plans drawn up by an architect. We will see what we need space-wise and what it costs,” said Hauser “If it can’t be built immediately, we will see what we can do.” One possibility is a food court for food trucks. Hauser envisions a central eating space surrounded by four trucks, which could offer service to theater patrons before and after shows, and to the community the rest of the time.
“We have talked with food truck owners. There is interest,” said Hauser. “We could rent spots out and put in central table seating. We could have a lot of variety.”
Placement of food trucks on site would allow the sale of liquor in the theater lobby, something patrons have asked for. Oregon’s Liquor Control Commission requires availability of food for such service. Currently, Camelot offer patrons beer and wine.
A good number of first-time audience members are helping to drive attendance numbers to high levels, said Hauser.
Without an artistic director at the time, the board put together the current season using a multivariant analytics system that Hauser had developed over the years to project what might appeal to audiences.
Generally what plays well on Broadway will also play well at Camelot, said Hauser. That includes both new productions and revivals. The analytics look at a number of criteria, including Broadway appearances and other factors such as costs. Musicals, for example, cost more to produce.
“We pick a show and this is the way it’s scoring,” said Hauser, of the process by which selections are made for upcoming seasons. The theater strives for a mix of musicals and dramas.
Royalty houses offer shows after they are no longer on Broadway, but not if they are touring the country. A show such as “Hamilton” would likely be too expensive for Camelot and couldn’t be staged due to set requirements, said Hauser. But the revival of “Funny Girl” might be a natural for the theater eventually.
“Customers want to be entertained. They don’t want to be preached to or educated,” said Hauser. Actors’ desire to perform in varying productions are also considered. Not everyone wants to perform in musicals, he said.
Camelot announced its 2024 productions at the end of September. There will be five plays, four musical spotlights, the Camelot Conservatory youth performances and one-night events including comedy nights, a burlesque show and a drag queen show.
The spotlights, which have proven popular with audiences, generally focus on musicians from the ’60s and ’70s. They fill in the gaps while staging is created for the larger shows, said Hauser. A disco ball in storage will need to be retrieved and put into working order when the theater offers a spotlight on ABBA during May.
Single-night shows also draw good crowds. Comedy nights have been done the past two years. A burlesque show has also played well, and a drag queen show will take place for the first time Oct. 22 this year.
Camelot pays its actors and crews.
“They would do if for free. This is a passion for them, but they bring a value and we want to reward that value fairly,” said Hauser.
Increasing actor pay is one of the board of directors’ long-term goals. Another is to enhance education for young people who may not have other opportunities to learn about acting or stage craft.
More information can be found at CamelotTheatre.org.
Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.