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Shakespeare And Smoke: Bad Air Forces Cancellations In Ashland

Jenny Graham/Courtesy of Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Jennie Greenberry, Jordan Barbour in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast."

As smoke from a swarm of Southern Oregon wildfires has blown into Ashland, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has had to cancel four shows so far this month because of unhealthy air conditions.

Associate Director of Communications Eddie Wallace said indoor venues are still holding performances as planned. But productions at the Allen Elizabethan Theatre have been affected, including “The Odyssey,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

“It’s painful to cancel anything,” Wallace said. “But when you have beautiful young children dressed up as Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ it is a particularly sad night at OSF.”

The festival makes a decision whether to continue with a show or not by 6:30 p.m. most nights based on the latest air quality data from DEQ. It posts any cancelations on its website.

One night this week, a performance of Merry Wives began but managers had to bring it to a halt 45 minutes into the show when the smoke became too much.

It’s hard to say exactly how much the cancelations will affect the festival’s bottom line.

Wallace said ticket holders have a variety of options, from trying to attend a performance of another indoor show the same night, to exchanging for seats on another date, to a refund.

Patrons can also choose to donate the cost of their tickets. If a show sold out and all patrons pursued refunds, the net loss would total $70,000 to $75,000. But Wallace says it’s too soon to tally losses for this season.

“The decision to cancel,” Wallace said, “is carefully thought out. We know people travel long distances to come here. We try to balance our intense desire to perform with the desire to take care of our audience and cast.”

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting