The drama at Cottage Theatre has been largely backstage this summer, as the community theater in Cottage Grove shut down in May for a planned remodel — only to discover that the construction cost was nearly double what had been expected.
The theater planned to expand its seating capacity from 150 to 200, improving sightlines in the process, as well as making backstage fixes to the theater building that was constructed in 1998.
Susan Goes, executive director of the theater, says the board has been working since 2011 on the upgrade, which was projected to cost $1.5 million; those figures were confirmed in March 2018 with the contractor, she says.
The theater planned to shut down this summer and get it all done at once.
“We’d announced the project publicly a year ago and built our 2019 season around the planned May-to-September construction period,” she says.
Suddenly, she says, the contractor changed its price guarantee, from $1.2 million to $2.1 million. That was in addition to other costs that brought the total price tag up by more than $300,000. “So our $1.5 million project was suddenly a $2.5 million project,” she says. “That was more than we could handle on short notice.”
The theater tried to find a loan package to continue with the planned work but was not able to put one together, she says.
As a result, the one-summer remodeling project has now been divided into phases, which the theater is calling “scenes.”
Scene 1, which is being finished this summer, includes replacing the existing theater seats but not adding 50 more seats, as originally planned. It also includes plumbing for a fire-sprinkler system and painting backstage.
“The bulk of the project as originally outlined will be shoved forward into Scene 2 so we have more time to raise a heck of a lot more money,” Goes says. “We are still in the midst of regrouping to figure out how best to do that.”
To add to the suspense, the theater is looking at a deadline for its fundraising. A $500,000 state lottery grant that was awarded to the theater specifies that the entire project must be completed by 2021, or the grant will be forfeited.
Scene 1 is proceeding on schedule, Goes says, and Cottage Theatre will re-open in time to finish the 2019 season with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged)[Revised], which opens Oct. 11 and runs through Oct. 27. Tickets go on sale Sept. 11 at CottageTheatre.org and the box office at 541-942-8001.
The last show of the 2019 season is the musical Oliver!, running Dec. 6-22. Tickets go on sale Nov. 6.