Piknik Theatre’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ provides a fresh take on a timeless classic
Piknik Theatre will return to the stage this month with its production of “Romeo and Juliet,” which will take place at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in downtown Steamboat Springs with several shows planned and the first slated for Friday.
And while the subject matter of the classic play is familiar to many, director Adeline Mann is focusing on a new direction.
“With Shakespeare’s tragedies, I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of this play is a tragedy so it has to be really serious and sad,” Mann explained. “I wanted to avoid that. There’s a lot of lightness and hope in ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ and it can be hard to focus on that if the whole play feels like a downward spiral toward tragedy.”
Actor Chris Van Winkle, who plays Romeo, said this particular version of the play has a more modern take and blends two time periods seamlessly together.
“It’s a portrayal of the story that is designed to show just how timeless of a story it is and how transcendent all-encompassing love can be,” Van Winkle said.
And while Van Winkle has played Romeo before, he said he has never seen the production done in a way that highlights both the original time period — complete with sword fighting and traditional costumes — as well as viewing the story from a more modern lens.
Denver-based actor Lance Rasmussen, who plays Tybalt, pointed out that as characters, Romeo and Juliet are doing what they think will make them happy, right up until the end of the show.
“We’re trying to keep it lighter and find a different note and tone than what has been done before,” Rasmussen said.
Joining Rasmussen and Van Winkle is Vivienne Luthin in the role of Benvolio. In addition to the production, Luthin has been working with Steamboat students, providing after-school theater programs and is directing “Matilda” for the middle school production in October.
Luthin is currently working with third through sixth grades at the Steamboat Montessori School in an after-school theater program that focuses on character creation and how to create a play, including writing scenes and monologues and how to come up with different characters. With Yampa Valley High School students, Luthin leads a text analysis course that studies various texts, scenes and characters.
These programs are offered in the schools through Piknik Theatre.
“Education is my primary passion,” Luthin said. “I’m such a firm believer in theater education. I think it’s a great way to expand your imagination, and it’s a form of self-expression — a way to express your emotions. It’s a great outlet for figuring out who you are, and it also enhances confidence and creates empathy for different situations. I think that’s the best growth for students.”
What: Piknik Theatre presents “Romeo and Juliet”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29-Oct. 2
Where: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 846 Oak St.
Tickets: $40 adults and $10 students, available at PiknikTheatre.org (Full vaccination and masks are required for admission)
Luthin ran Piknik Theatre’s summer youth workshops in 2019 and returned this past summer to lead the program for a second year.
Piknik Theatre, possibly best known for its summer series, is the only theater company with professional actors in the Yampa Valley. With mostly Denver-based actors, the organization has put on a different Shakespearean tragedy each fall since 2018. Many of the actors in “Romeo and Juliet” have acted with the organization before, and Mann said she is looking forward to returning to Steamboat.
“This is my first time directing for Piknik Theatre and also my first time directing professionally,” she said. “I’ve loved every bit of the process, the production team and my awesome cast. It’s truly a dream to work with such lovely humans in such a beautiful place.”
Sophie Dingle is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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Colorado New Play Festival has created a new role within its organization and has named Steamboat Springs resident Dagny McKinley to to fill it.