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artattack Opens Its New Theater!


Ashland's most intimate theater will open its doors after an eight-month delay. The City of Ashland has given artattack theater ensemble a temporary permit to enable them to operate their 45-seat venue, until the policy that currently forbids theaters in employment zones is changed.

After two years of producing theater without their own venue, Artistic-Directors Nicole Isaacson-Hill and Justin C. Lockwood began their search for a potential theater space that would suit artattack's particular needs and image. They finally found the ideal location, in a vacated building on Oak Street, in the beautiful historic district of Ashland, two blocks from the center of town. Aside from being centrally located, the building provided ample parking, and a beautiful creative atmosphere including skylights and tropical plants in the lobby.

It wasn't until after they signed the lease, last August, that the nightmare began. The company was alerted that theater's, of any size or nature, were not permitted in the zone in which the building was located.  It was explained to them that until 1998 the ordinance listed dining, entertainment and dancing establishments as permitted uses in this zone. In 1998 the ordinance was changed to allow restaurants as a permitted use, and bars and nightclubs as a conditional use, other types of entertainment, including theaters, were inadvertently left off entirely.

Lockwood and Isaacson-Hill have been involved with the City in pushing to rectify this mistake, unfortunately the process has been lengthy and the theater has lost in excess of $10,000 in rent and lost revenues awaiting permission to open the theater. Though their landlord, Brent Thompson, gave them the opportunity to get out of the lease, they were determined to wait it out. "We refused to believe that a town like Ashland would stifle theater," said Isaacson-Hill, "We found the ideal spot and we were going to hold on to it."

With less than three weeks until the announced opening, artattack can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The City has responded to their appeal for a temporary conditional use permit for six months or until a permanent permit may be obtained. "We are so grateful to everyone at the City who pushed for this," said Lockwood, "I'd especially like to thank Associate Planner, Mark Knox, who has had to put up with our almost daily phone calls, and who always made us feel like our concerns were being heard."

The theater-in-the-round was designed with the help of architect Carlos Delgado and Oregon Shakespeare Festival designer Richard Hay. The seating is configured so that every audience member is either in the first or second row, for a uniquely intimate experience. The theater is equipped with central air conditioning and heating, and comfortable high backed foam seats. During the evenings the venue will host artattack's four play season and guest performances, and during the days it will operate as a educational studio with classes taught by Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor, G. Valmont Thomas, and other theater professionals.

Artattack has collaborated with local artist Bruce Smith of Chuma Metalworks (http://www.chumametalworks.com/). In exchange for the opportunity to show his work, Smith has outfitted the theater with custom signs, railings, and furniture, as well as a life-size rendering of the company's logo in the lobby. "Bruce's work is completely in line with the artattack esthetic," said Isaacson-Hill, "it's his attention to detail that's going to make the theater space as exciting as the productions."

On March 21 artattack will celebrate their long-awaited opening with a modern interpretation of James Goldman's The Lion in Winter. When artattack was formed, they included in their mission statement that as well as plays by "brave new talents and contemporary masters," the theater would also produce "innovative renderings of classics." With three premieres under their belts, in two years, the company is finally fulfilling this other aspect of their mission.

First produced on Broadway in 1966, it is the film version that followed two years later that established The Lion in Winter as an American classic. Starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O'Toole, the film was also the springboard for Anthony Hopkin's film career. Nominated for seven Academy Awards and winner of three it was for her portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine that Hepburn won her third of four Oscars.

The story is loosely based on historical figures and events. It is Christmastime and Henry II, King of England at the ripe old age of 50 (ancient for the period) must choose which of his three sons will inherit his kingdom. Meanwhile he has released his wife, the even more ancient Eleanor of Aquitaine, from her imprisonment (for a short while) and continues an open affair with his son's fiancée. The play has been called a "Medieval Virginia Wolf" because of the vicious repartee between the couple and the dark comedy of menace that results.

However, the artattack production will be somewhat different. Determined to make the play relevant to a modern audience and present it in a new way, director Justin C. Lockwood chose to set the play in modern day in a "Sopranos" like mob family. "As I read through the script it just seemed to fit" said Lockwood "Henry, like Tony Soprano, is a powerful boss with a lot of responsibility and an interest in who will follow him: violence, power, control over armies and provinces, this was the perfect modern day equivalent." Though none of the lines have been changed the costumes, dialect and modern interpretations of the characters will communicate the concept. "We have faith in our audience that they will be able to make the leap," said Isaacson-Hill, "the lines say knives when the actors are wielding guns, but the sentiment is the same. The fact that it is the same is part of the point."

The play was selected to showcase the talents of founding-ensemble member, Ellen Waters. A seasoned actor of forty years, Waters has been seen in artattack productions: Criminal Hearts, Neurotic Dominus, Festival of Lights, An Empty Plate in the Café Du Grand Beouf, and Beautiful Thing. Other actors include Geoffrey Riley (Henry), Duncan Hightower (John), Marc Swan (Richard), Christopher Edwards (Geoffrey), Kirah Solomon (Alais) and Justin C. Lockwood (Phillip).

The play will open March 21 with an opening night gala dinner at Standing Stone Brewing Company. Tickets for the dinner are $55 and $40 for season subscribers which includes dinner with the artistic directors at Standing Stone at 6:30 PM, admission to the play, and champagne toast following the performance.  The play runs through April 14 Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8PM and Sundays at 2PM at 310 Oak St. (former Cantwell's Building). Tickets are $17 Fridays and Saturdays and $15 Sundays and Mondays. Group rates are available for parties of 10 or more, Tickets are available two hours before each show or online at http://www.artattacktheater.com/.

For more information call (541) 482-6505. 





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