Shakespeare workshop continues to entertain, enlighten
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It was 1968 and teenager Carl Steidtmann was on a summer-abroad trip when his class went to a Shakespeare performance at Stratford-Upon-Avon in England. He admits not understanding a thing about the play but was taken with a young gorgeous actress named Diana Rigg. Current movie fans will recognize Rigg as the sharp-witted grandmother of House Tyrell in “Game of Thrones,” but she cut her teeth on Shakespeare.
“I was so taken with her that I had to find out what this Shakespeare was all about,” Steidtmann said.
Fifty years later, Steidtmann still finds Rigg charming, but it’s Shakespeare that has captured his heart, and that’s why he took over Steamboat’s Shakespeare Reading Group, a seven-week workshop that reads and studies a Shakespeare play every year.
This year, attendees will enjoy “Henry IV: Part 1” but don’t compare this experience to your high school English teacher’s take on Shakespeare.
“We just don’t sit there and discuss Shakespeare, we read it out loud, and we get to hear the language and imagine what it was like to perform with a crowd of people responding,” said long-time attendee Stuart Handloff, who is also a local theater director.
Starting Jan. 15, every Wednesday for seven weeks, Steidtmann will hold court at the Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs, walking “students” through the wonder of Shakespeare’s Prince Hal and Falstaff of “Henry IV” and helping attendees to appreciate the colorful language and poetry that Shakespeare created.
“You have one of the best Shakespearean characters, after Macbeth, in Falstaff,” said Steidtmann, a retired economist who also has history and English literature degrees.
But even more interesting than just the language and characters that people fall in love with is the history and ageless lessons that ring true through the generations.
“What he writes about is incredibly relevant today: What you need to create leaders; the role of stagecraft and how it’s used to create images in the minds of people; there’s pro and anti-war issues… all stuff we’re still dealing with today,” Steidtmann said.
And like Steidtmann, Handloff understands that Shakespeare is best understood when it’s performed. Workshop attendees might find themselves getting into a character for the evening as they’re reading and jump up to perform as they read. Anything goes.
“Shakespeare in his time was creating performance art that would make him money,” Handloff said. “There was no Social Security or National Endowment for the Arts. The work had to be popular to make money on ticket sales.”
The winter workshop on Shakespeare is a popular one and fills up quickly, so anyone interested in participating should register online at http://www.steamboatlibrary.org. Click on “Events” to find Shakespeare Reading Group.
The library will provide a free copy of the play on loan for each participant.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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