Piknik Theatre a bridge between culture and performance art | SteamboatToday.com

Piknik Theatre a bridge between culture and performance art

Program schedule

7 p.m. Friday: “Romeo and Juliet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Saturday: “Botanica” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Sunday: “Romeo and Juliet” at Bud Werner Memorial Library

6 p.m. Wednesday: “Romeo and Juliet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Thursday: “Botanica” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 8: “Romeo and Juliet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 9: “Botanica” at Bud Werner Memorial Library

6 p.m. Aug. 10: “Romeo and Juilet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 13: “Botanica” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 14: “Romeo and Juliet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 15: “Botanica” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 16: “Romeo and Juliet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 17: “Botanica” at Yampa River Botanic Park

Children’s Workshops

All Children’s Theater Workshops will be held at the Depot Art Center, 1001 13th St. Offered for kids ages 8 to 12.

Workshop schedule

Monday to Aug. 8, 9:30 a.m. to noon and Aug. 11 to 15, 9:30 a.m. to noon

Program schedule

7 p.m. Friday: “Romeo and Juliet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Saturday: “Botanica” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Sunday: “Romeo and Juliet” at Bud Werner Memorial Library

6 p.m. Wednesday: “Romeo and Juliet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Thursday: “Botanica” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 8: “Romeo and Juliet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 9: “Botanica” at Bud Werner Memorial Library

6 p.m. Aug. 10: “Romeo and Juilet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 13: “Botanica” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 14: “Romeo and Juliet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 15: “Botanica” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 16: “Romeo and Juliet” at Yampa River Botanic Park

6 p.m. Aug. 17: “Botanica” at Yampa River Botanic Park

— Imagine for a moment a storm rolling in against the backdrop of the Yampa River Botanic Park.

As lightning begins to strike, one lone actor playing the role of Juliet breaks the silence as she says, "Too rash, too unadvised, too sudden; too like the lightning, which doth cease to be. Ere one can say, it lightens."

Unlike an indoor theater experience, anything can happen outside.

"The interaction with nature makes theater so much more dangerous, more exciting and more vivid," said Stuart Handloff, the Piknik Theatre Festival artistic director about the essence of what makes the festival such a unique undertaking. "We've got the coming together of a community, the story-telling aspect, and then we add this element of nature to it, where we don't always know what will happen."

Rain or shine, the actors continue to thrive no matter what elements are thrown their way.

In its seventh year, the Piknik Theatre Festival offers 13 free outdoor performances put on by actors from The Great American Laughing Stock Company. GALSCO is a not-for-profit summer repertory theater company with the mission to enhance and diversity of performing arts in the area.

This year, five actors from New Zealand have come to bridge two cultures together for a new level of cultural understanding for theatrical performance art. Discovering acute parallels, many of the actors feel a sense of familiarity in Steamboat.

"Here you have such a beautiful landscape from which to draw inspiration from," said Cian Elyse White, one of the actors from New Zealand visiting Steamboat for the first time. “It does parallel a lot with home and there is an innate connection between the two communities."

When Handloff studied at the New Zealand National Drama School for a master’s degree, he had a gut feeling about the strong resemblance between Steamboat and the Kiwi culture.

"There is that same warmth here that they feel at home," Handloff said. "People who live in this community and enjoy living here do it for the beautiful environment and the connection between the land and the community."

The summer festival offers the opportunity for two cultures to look at one another and gain a new perspective by seeing similar values reflected back.

"Even though we are so different and so far across the world from each other, there are so many similarities," White said about her culture. "Community is community, and it's really universal, I think."

Along with the classical William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” there will be a newly crafted performance for the summer series. Handloff and his son conceived the framework for a story about the park. The key for them was that the performances are always held in the Yampa River Botanic Park, so why not pay homage to that with a play?

It became known as "Botanica." The dialogue and musical components of the play were developed by the actors to construct a story the group has become quite proud of.

"He's trusted us with a lot of things," White said about the role of responsibility she and the actors had in devising the story of “Botanica.”

"I like the fact that I can hone in and work on my skills as a creator not just as an actor learning lines," she said.

Having an input throughout the creative process, the actors have an active part in the building of a new project.

"The big thing about a musical comedy is that it's completely original," said Adrian Hooke, one of the visiting actors who worked on a majority of the musical composition of the play. "This is totally a newly conceived idea, and I think it's been really exciting for the whole company."

Rather than a strictly regimented schedule that comes with the profession as an actor, this experience allows each individual the freedom to go beyond any limitations of artistic challenges.

"To have that opportunity to create new work is what makes these artists want to come here," Handloff said. "These guys are professionals, and they have the chance to challenge themselves in a way that is both productive and exciting. And they get to take a vacation at the same time. Most artists don't get that opportunity."

Recognizing outdoor theater as more than just a learning experience, Handloff hopes the audience embraces each performance as a transformative process that will inspire them in a new-found way.

"We want to transform ourselves and the lives of others," he said. "There is something really powerful in the coming together of human beings surround by a beautiful landscape that makes the storytelling infinitely more powerful."

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email adwyer@ExploreSteamboat.com or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1