The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has designated a new section of prime seats that will cost at least $120 per ticket.
The Star Zone seats are close to the stage in OSF's indoor Angus Bowmer Theatre and outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre.
The intimate Thomas Theatre has no Star Zone seating.
For the remaining sections in OSF's three theaters, ticket prices will remain flat this year compared to the 2018 season.
Prices start at $105 in the A+ section, $85 in the A section, $65 in the B section and $40 in the C section.
Prices go up when demand is high, such as when a person orders a summer weekend ticket to a popular play.
Although the starting cost for most seats will remain flat, OSF is adding a $7 fee when people order tickets. The fee is charged per order, not on each ticket.
Adding the pricier Star Zone seating will help OSF bring in revenue while avoiding price increases for most seats, said OSF Communications Manager Julie Cortez.
“We've kept all of our other ticket prices the same from 2018, and that was a real priority for us of not raising ticket prices in general,” she said.
The Star Zone has about 60 seats in the 600-seat Angus Bowmer Theatre and about 90 seats in the 1,200-seat Allen Elizabethan Theatre, according to Cortez.
Income from the Star Zone seating will help ensure OSF’s sustainability and ability to provide world-class theater, she said.
The $7 ordering fee — which OSF is calling an infrastructure fee — supports ongoing operating and facility needs, Cortez said.
OSF was hard-hit by persistent wildfire smoke during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. It went through two rounds of layoffs at the end of both seasons.
In 2018, OSF suffered $2 million in lost revenue and added expenses, officials said.
“We, like everyone in the valley, have been affected by smoke, especially over these last two years, and in particular last year,” Cortez said.
She said OSF officials aren’t worried that the Star Zone prices and ordering fee will deter patrons who already may be having second thoughts about visiting Southern Oregon.
Cortez said people who have been ordering tickets for the coming season haven’t been complaining.
Meanwhile, OSF is preparing for another potential summer of wildfire smoke.
It has Ashland High School’s indoor 400-seat Mountain Avenue Theatre lined up as an alternate venue if smoke shuts down performances at the Elizabethan Theatre.
From July 30 through Sept. 8, OSF will sell only 400 advance tickets for Elizabethan performances in case productions have to move to the high school due to smoke.
“If it turns out we don’t need to go over there, that the smoke does not materialize, we will look at moving back to the Allen Elizabethan Theatre and opening up those seats again,” Cortez said. “We did not want to turn anyone away again. We wanted to make sure people could make their plans and keep their plans.”
The strategy will provide more certainty for patrons while minimizing stress on OSF workers, who had to scramble to move productions last summer to the high school theater, she said.
While OSF could lose revenue by limiting advance ticket sales for its outdoor theater, the action is the responsible decision for patrons, workers and the community, Cortez said.
The high school theater will have Star Zone seating plus the traditional A+, A, B and C sections.
OSF offers a variety of ways for people to avoid paying full price for tickets.
The Flex Pass of five tickets costs $175, or $35 per ticket. Patrons must use two Flex Pass tickets if they want to reserve a Star Zone seat.
Flex Pass tickets can only be used for designated performances on the Flex Pass Performance List, which is updated regularly.
One hour before plays open, the Box Office offers $40 rush tickets for any remaining seats. Youths ages 17 or younger and college students can show their student identification to receive a $15 rush ticket.
People who pay $35 to become OSF members receive discounts of up to 25 percent during some parts of the season.
OSF periodically hosts Family Days for select performances. Tickets cost $30. At least one member of each group must be age 6 to 17.
OSF posts web specials on Thursdays during the season and also sends out email notifications to people who have signed up to receive information on ticket specials.
People with an Oregon Trail food benefits card can see certain performances for $5 all season.
See osfashland.org or call the Box Office at 800-219-8161 for more information on the play schedule and tickets.