Piknik Theatre invites community to free, outdoor, interactive shows
'The Tempest,' 'Paper Bag Princess' take place at Yampa River Botanic Park, Bud Werner Memorial Library
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — They’re making the whole world their stage — or, at least, they’re making several public spaces in Steamboat Springs their stage.
The Piknik Theatre Festival’s annual series of free, outdoor theater productions begins Sunday, July 28, and continues Sundays through Thursdays until Aug. 8. This summer’s shows will be “The Tempest” and “The Paper Bag Princess (An Acrobatic Fairy Tale),” which continues Piknik Theatre’s tradition of “something old and something new,” since they began outdoor theater in 2008, said Piknik Theater Artistic Director Stuart Handloff.
Each show lasts about an hour and is casual and family-friendly.
“I like to think that it’s a picnic with theater attached,” Handloff said. “Bring your picnic basket, bring your beverage, bring something to sit on. We’ll put on theater for you.”
Just as the productions aren’t limited to the confines of a traditional stage, they’re also not limited to a single script or to being played out by the actors. Audience members can expect to become part of the story should they want to be involved.
“We’ll pull kids out of the crowd and give them squirt guns. We’ll steal your beverage or your pizza. We’ll bring Grandma up and ask her to hold a stick with flaming things on it,” Handloff said. “It makes this a whole lot of fun, which has always been the point.”
The environment is just as unpredictable.
“The most exciting thing about outdoor theater is that it’s outdoors. There’s an element you can’t rehearse or prepare for,” Handloff said. “The unrehearsed will happen, and people will never forget it.”
What: Piknik Theatre Festival’s “The Tempest”
When: 6 to 7:30 p.m.
• July 28 at Bud Werner Memorial Library, 1289 Lincoln Ave.
• July 30, Aug. 1, Aug. 5 and Aug. 7 at the Yampa River Botanic Park, 1000 Pamela Lane
What: Piknik Theatre Festival’s “The Paper Bag Princess” (An Acrobatic Fairy Tale)
When: 6 to 7:30 p.m.
• July 29, July 31, Aug. 6 and Aug. 8 at the Botanic Park
• Aug. 4 at the library
Maybe that’s a rain shower, a motorcycle roaring down Lincoln Avenue and drowning out voices for 20 seconds or a child leaping into a nearby pond.
“Anything could happen,” Handloff said.
“As long as you’re being heard, the audience will go with you on the story,” said Keta Roth, who plays Prospero.
“The Tempest” is thought to be written by William Shakespeare in 1610 and 1611. In the play, exiled ruler Prospero and his daughter Miranda explore power, mercy and justice in the form of a shipwreck and its outcomes on a desert island.
“The Paper Bag Princess” is based on the 1980 children’s book by Robert Munsch. The story reverses the stereotypical knight-rescues-princess plot and tosses out the idea that a princess must be always be prettily dressed and ready to marry whoever slays the dragon right out the castle window.
The lead roles of both plays are filled by several professional actors from San Francisco, Saint Louis, New York and the Front Range, as well as several locals actors. The cast of “The Tempest” includes Keta Roth, Vivienne Claire Luthin, Austin Jacobs, Layn Rawlings, Lance Rasmussen, Nick Demarest, Larry Moore, Stuart Handloff and Macayla Scheidt. Josh Robinson is the director, Nick Demarest is assistant director and stage manager and Handloff is the producer.
The cast of “The Paper Bag Princess” includes Luthin, Jacobs and Rasmussen.
“It’s professional, but it’s relaxed and fun,” Handloff said. “These guys know what they’re doing.”
“It’s a nice mix and a nice vibe,” Roth said.
The plays were cast in line with Piknik Theater’s mission of creating professional-quality and diverse performing arts in the Yampa Valley.
“It’s a rainbow coalition (of age and skill diversity), this Piknik Theater. It’s important because diversity and arts go together,” Handloff said. “It’s important for people telling their own stories.”
The full Piknik Theater summer schedule is as follows:
• “The Tempest” will be performed Sunday, July 28, at Bud Werner Memorial Library and Tuesday, July 30; Thursday, Aug. 1; Monday, Aug. 5 and Wednesday, Aug. 7, at the Yampa River Botanic Park.
• “Paper Bag Princess” will be performed Monday, July 29; Wednesday, July 31; Tuesday, Aug. 6; and Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Yampa River Botanic Park and Sunday, Aug. 4, at the library.
All shows, which are free, start at 6 p.m. Donations to support Piknik Theatre will be accepted.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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