Live theater returns to town when the Randall Theatre Company of Medford moves many of its main stage offerings to a new Jacksonville location at the Calvary Church on 5th Street. The planned expansion is part of a partnership between the Randall Theatre and Jacksonville’s Calvary Church. The church will continue holding church services on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. Randall Theatre main stage productions in 2017 will include at least four other shows, beginning with the musical “On the Town,” running May 5 through 28.
The expansion resulted from discussions over the past two years between the Randall’s Artistic Director Robin Downward and Jacksonville Mayor Paul Becker. Mayor Becker said reviving live theater in town has been a longtime goal of his. He noted that Jacksonville has not had a resident theater company since the 1980’s, when the Gilded Cage Players melodrama troupe moved out of Pioneer Village and into a converted feed store in Talent. The company later folded and that space became Actor’s Theatre and, eventually, the Camelot Theatre.
Today’s Randall Theatre Company is going beyond melodrama in bringing live theater back to Jacksonville. The Randall will be producing the energetic, high-quality plays and musicals that the theatre is known for. Generally, shows will run for one to two months, over the span of eight months during the theater’s calendar year. Jacksonville show times will begin at 7:00pm and end by 9:30pm with Sunday matinee’s at 2:00pm. Ticket prices, according to Downward, will remain in the $18 price range, one of the best values for live theater in the region. The theater’s famed “pay what you can/want” seating program will continue at the new location, as well.
The move benefits theater-goers, thanks in-part to a larger auditorium, more comfortable seating and year-round heating and air conditioning—something the current location in downtown Medford has struggled to provide. Downward says that performances will still be staged in the Medford location but that the larger ones will take place in Jacksonville. Seating capacity at the church location is about 140, although an ideal number would be closer to 99 to maintain the intimacy the Randall has become known for.
Mayor Paul Becker says that the move could not have happened at a better time, stating, “Many people have approached me about the possibility of Jacksonville acquiring a theater for live stage entertainment. When Calvary Church Pastor Brian Steller learned that the Randall was looking for a Jacksonville home…we started talking.”
Steller says the church had been looking at how to make better use of their building outside of worship services, but in a way that would benefit the community. Representatives from the church and the theater met several times to work out the details of the agreement, which became final on February 17. Under the terms of the agreement, the church and the theatre will share the space yet maintain their own separate identities. Pastor Steller says the partnership is good for the church, the theater and the Jacksonville community. “We are excited to network with Randall Theatre. Though we are separate organizations and will remain that way, both of us have a desire to serve our local community. We believe this relationship will enable both parties to do that more effectively.”
The church and the theater are working to renovate the existing stage and bring upgrades to the lighting and sound systems now in the main auditorium. To that end, fundraising efforts are underway, including an April 22 event at the Jacksonville Randall Theatre location featuring an “On the Town with Ginger Rogers” fashion show. This very special event will include a chance to purchase 11 of Ginger’s personal gowns, items of her personal clothing, shoes, dozens of pairs of gloves, milk bottles from her Shady Cove Dairy Farm, silent auction items, beverages, finger foods and more.
Shows scheduled to run in the Jacksonville location include On the Town (May 5 through 28), Neil Simon’s California Suite (June 23 through July 9), Young Frankenstein, the Musical (July 28 through August 20) and Dial “M” for Murder (September 15 through October 1).
For more information on this project, contact Robin Downward at the Randall Theatre at 541-632-3258.