A new theater company made up of longtime Rogue Valley actors and directors will call the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater home.

A new theater company made up of longtime Rogue Valley actors and directors will call the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater home.

Craterian Executive Director Stephen McCandless said Tuesday the newly minted Next Stage Repertory Company will present four plays in the 2011-2012 season beginning in September.

The company brings together theater professionals Doug Warner, Peter Alzado and Kate Sullivan, all of whom are well-known to theatergoers in Southern Oregon.

McCandless said Next Stage would focus on producing small-cast plays that don't require extravagant production. This will allow the runs of its plays to fit in around the dates of the touring companies that perform on the theater's stage as well as local groups already scheduled to use it. In addition, he said, organizers want the focus of the shows to be on the material and the acting, not spectacle.

A mission statement said the new company's goal is to "explore, expand, and exalt the human spirit, and to engage, entertain, and inspire audiences, through the professional staging of classic and new plays of artistic merit."

The venture simultaneously expands the Craterian's reach into locally produced drama by an in-house acting company and frees up Warner, Alzado and Sullivan to concentrate on plays and acting. McCandless will be responsible for the administrative end of the theater, and New Stage productions will enjoy the state-of-the-art stage and sumptuous furnishings of the flagship arts presenter in Medford.

Next Stage plans to make tickets to professional plays affordable. All seats for the 2011-2012 season will be just $10.

The addition addresses some of the concerns raised by proponents of a plan to remodel a second historical Medford theater, the Holly. Some supporters of that plan said the Craterian catered to higher-end acts and that its ticket prices were often expensive.

Alzado has acted on Broadway and television and was artistic director of Actors' Theatre in Talent and Oregon Stage Works in Ashland, which he founded. Sullivan acted in Hawaii and at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, assisted Alzado at both Actors' Theatre and OSW and is co-director of Ashland Children's Theatre. Warner, who is an actor, director, set and sound designer and a musician, founded and directed theater companies in California and was producing director at Camelot Theatre in Talent until last year. He's also worked with a young people's theater group at the Craterian.

Warner said he and Alzado began talking about six months ago about the kind of theater they like to present and found they believed in many of the same things: the primacy of the script, the importance of what happens between actors, of letting meaning arise organically from story as opposed to being imposed by a concept.

"I can't tell you how many years doing theater in barns and other places we wished for something like this," Warner said, waving a hand at the Craterian's expansive stage and comfortable seating.

The three actors see themselves as the core of a new repertory. Warner will be the new company's artistic director, with Alzado and Sullivan associate artistic directors. Warner will direct Sullivan and Alzado in the group's first production, Lanford Wilson's "Talley's Folly," in September.

Possible goals down the road include being able to pay actors and working with local playwrights.

Theater lovers like to say there's an excitement with live performance you don't get anywhere else.

"I think Medford is ready for it," Warner said.

Bill Varble is a freelance writer living in Medford. Reach him at varble.bill@gmail.com.