2009 Picnic Theatre Festival schedule
- William Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew": An update of the classic play. 6 p.m. Friday, July 17 and 25 at Spring Creek Park. 6 p.m. July 15 at Yampa River Botanic Park.
- "Eccentricities of a Butterfly" by Dagny McKinley: A day in the life of local writer McKinley's character Audrey Rose. 6 p.m. July 12, 19 and 26 at Spring Creek Park. 6 p.m. July 22 at Bud Werner Memorial Library.
- "Songs Around a Campfire": Laurie Collins directs a musical that pairs Maori myths with American pioneer songs. 6 p.m. Saturday at Art in the Park. 6 p.m. July 18 and 24 at Spring Creek Park.
- Children's theater workshop: Great American Laughing Stock Co. and the Steamboat Springs Arts Council offer introductory theater activities from 8- to 12-year-olds from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. July 13 to 17 and July 20 to 24 at the Depot Art Center. Tuition is $10 a day.
All performances are free and open to the public. For more information about the second annual Picnic Theatre Festival, contact Stuart Handloff at 970-355-9403 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Great American Laughing Stock Co. isn't interested in offering a typical night at the theater.
The group's attitude toward theater is one that brings it out of the box and onto the yard. Most shows in a three-week run of the company's second annual Picnic Theatre Festival are set in Spring Creek Park and other outdoor venues,
"It's not a traditional environment, it's not a traditional theater approach. It's not a traditional theater company, for that matter; it never has been," said Stuart Handloff, founder and director of the festival and longtime Steamboat Springs theater community member.
Starting Friday, the Picnic Theatre Festival presents free performances of three works, featuring actors from Steamboat Springs and six transplants from New Zealand, where Handloff recently earned a graduate degree in directing.
The goal is "to get theater out of the box, to raise the quality and artistic level of performing arts in the community, and to figure out a way that we can exchange the cultures of Steamboat Springs and New Zealand," Handloff said. That premise has grown stronger as the festival gains community roots and involvement, he said.
"It's just a stronger connection, I think, all the way around," Handloff said.
Picnic Theatre will hold on to its original location at Spring Creek for the bulk of its shows and has scheduled performances closer to town at the Yampa River Botanic Park, Art in the Park and Bud Werner Memorial Library. The shows play well to most age groups, directors said.
In its second year, the festival features three productions: a version of William Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" that's part English, part Samoan; an original play by local author Dagny McKinley tracking a day in the life of her character, Audrey Rose; and a musical that marries Maori children's tales with American pioneer songs.
The festival's version of "Shrew" attempts to maintain the broad humor of the original script while it carefully approaches some of the play's potentially misogynistic undertones, Handloff said.
"Eccentricities of a Butterfly," McKinley's play, found its footing during the Picnic Theatre rehearsal process, director Amy Pottinger said.
"Everything is new. We're the first people ever to say these words in these ways," Pottinger said. The play has been through some edits at monthly Playwright Howl readings hosted at Epilogue Book Co., Handloff said.
"Songs Around a Campfire" uses musicians from Steamboat and New Zealand to perform American musical translations of traditional New Zealand myths. In putting the musical together, actors and musicians tried to figure out what mountain town and New Zealand cultures have in common, and how those similarities can be expressed, director Laurie Collins said.
One of Handloff's original goals for the festival was to build a cultural bridge between the way theater is done here and the way it's done in New Zealand.
Byron Coll, who came to the festival in its first year and is back this summer as music director, has had the chance to learn banjo - an instrument he doesn't often see on his island nation - and share traditional songs and expressions with stateside audiences.
"It's greatly refreshing to come here and have a lot of fun doing something a wee bit different," Coll said. The New Zealand actors also have enjoyed performing in their native accents, which Coll suspects might be difficult to understand, he said.
Some of that diversity will be on hand for a children's theater workshop July 13 to 24. New to the festival this year, the workshop is geared toward children ages 8 to 12 and will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Depot Art Center. For more information about the festival or to sign a child up for the workshop, contact Handloff at 970-355-9403 or email@example.com.