From its 1880’s Chautauqua roots, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has blossomed into a four-acre complex housing one of America’s most successful repertory theatre companies. Kirkegaard provided acoustic design consulting services for the largest of the Festival’s venues, the Allen Elizabethan Theatre, completed in 1992. Located in the scenic town of Ashland, Oregon, this theatre began as an open air performance space, enclosed by a circular concrete wall, with a Tudor-style Shakespearean fixed stage patterned after London’s historic Fortune Theatre (completed in 1599). The Allen Elizabethan Theatre was designed to maintain the open-air ambience of the original while providing greater protection from weather and traffic noise, more seats, improved sight lines and lighting positions, and better acoustics.
The structure is a reinterpretation of an Elizabethan playhouse, with a covered balcony and high walls that integrate the historic stage and its backdrop wall around an open center. Careful shaping of the theatre’s rear walls and the ceilings under and over the balcony returns sound to nearby audiences. These reflections reinforce the stage sound and protect the audience in the center seating from confusing late reflections. Other surfaces that faced the stage were treated to weaken confusing echoes.
The theatre also integrates control rooms, toilets and concessions. Kirkegaard provided design services to protect audiences from noise generated in these spaces.