Oregon Cabaret Theater’s founding director, Craig Hudson, has been its resident scenic and lighting designer for the past 26 years. A former professor of theater arts at Southern Oregon University, Hudson divides his time between his design projects at OCT and the Red Tree House, a bed and breakfast he designed and built in Mexico City.
For those of you who haven’t visited OCT, it’s a gracious, polished, welcoming environment that serves up tasty dinner theater. Audiences are consistently satisfied, and so is the OCT staff, some of whom have been there since the theater’s inception. Hudson and I met for coffee at the Rogue Valley Roasting Co. on Ashland’s East Main Street.
CH: I’d always wanted to have a theater. When I was at grad school at Penn State, I was talking to friends who collected memorabilia from old Philadelphia theaters. I said, “Someday I want to have my own theater; if you ever see a big main chandelier for sale, let me know.” They knew of one. So I carted around this huge chandelier looking for a place to put it. That’s the chandelier in the Oregon Cabaret Theatre.
EH: How did you find this fantastic space?
CH: One day a friend said, “You have to come and look at this building.” Somebody had kicked in the back door of this old church. And I thought, my God, this would be a great theater.
EH: Do you have a favorite set that you’ve designed?
CH: We used to do a lot of dinner theater at SOU. We did a very good “Tom Jones.” People were eating in what was the auditorium. We’d put platforms over the seats. The ceiling was tented. We built a whole balcony. Actors could go down stage, up through the audience, up staircases, around, and back down on the stage. It was really fun. The food service was integrated into the show. The audience was brought into the space, and everything happened around them. It was one of those total experiences. It was magical, the minute you walked in.