Something old, something new – 10th annual Piknik Theatre Festival performances kick off Friday |

Something old, something new – 10th annual Piknik Theatre Festival performances kick off Friday

The Great American Laughing Stock Company brings William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" and "The Chosen One" to the Piknik Theatre Festival which kicks off Friday night. Bring a picnic basket and a blanket for free outdoor Shakespeare and musical comedy.
Steamboat Pilot & Today

10th annual Piknik Theatre Festival Schedule:

Friday, July 28: Piknik Theatre’s “The Chosen One” – Botanic Park, 6 p.m. Saturday, July 29:Piknik Theatre’s “The Merchant of Venice” – Outdoor Theater, Steamboat Springs High School, 6 p.m. Sunday, July 30: Piknik Theatre’s “The Chosen One” – Botanic Park, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2: Piknik Theatre’s “The Merchant of Venice” – Botanic Park, 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3: Piknik Theatre’s “The Chosen One” – Botanic Park, 6 p.m Friday, Aug. 4: Piknik Theatre’s “The Merchant of Venice” – Botanic Park, 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5: Piknik Theatre’s “The Chosen One” – SSHS Outdoor Theatre, 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6: Piknik Theatre’s “The Merchant of Venice” – Bud Werner Memorial Library, 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9: Piknik Theatre’s “The Chosen One” – Botanic Park, 6pm. Thursday, Aug. 10: Piknik Theatre’s “The Merchant of Venice” – Botanic Park, 6pm Friday, Aug. 11:  Piknik Theatre’s “The Chosen One” – Botanic Park, 6 p.m. August 12: Piknik Theatre’s “The Merchant of Venice” – Outdoor Theater, Steamboat Springs High School, 6 p.m. August 13: Piknik Theatre’s “The Chosen One” –

In Shakespeare, there is no set way to determine what one of his plays should look like or what it’s supposed to be.

“Shakespeare says, ‘Here, here you go; now, you find what you want from this text,” said Stuart Handloff, artistic director the annual Piknik Theatre Festival performances. “Part of what I love about William Shakespeare’s work is it’s so powerful, it’s easy for a director to say, “Here, read these words,” something will come out of it. What I love about this theatre is that we get to make it really accessible. We get to take those words and give them real meaning and richness — the ups, the downs, the full spectrum.”

At this summer’s 10th annual Piknik Theatre Festival, prose will transcend the script for a season of performances Handloff describes as the most unusual and controversial season yet.

Opening night for the outdoor theatre season kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday in the Yampa River Botanic Park with a performance of “The Chosen One,” directed by Andrew Garrett Karl, of the Mimesis Theatre Project from New York City. The performance will be repeated at 6 p.m. Sunday.

At 6 p.m. Saturday, Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” directed by Handloff, will take the Steamboat Springs High School’s Outdoor Theatre Stage.

The free, outdoor theater series runs through Aug. 13, with performances taking place at 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays at Yampa River Botanic Park, the SSHS Outdoor Theater Stage or the Bud Werner Memorial Library.

The annual Piknik Theatre Festival offers 13 free outdoor performances performed by local and visiting actors involved in the Great American Laughing Stock Company. GALSCO is a nonprofit summer repertory theater company with a mission to enhance and diversify performing arts in the area.

“The Chosen One,” will feature professional actors from the Mimesis Theatre Project, a devised musical theatre company that uses existing works combined with dance, text and music to create something new.

The company’s production of “The Chosen One,” Karl said, uses the Torah and superhero mythology to explore good, evil and the “other.”

These performances mark the first time the Mimesis Theatre Project has collaborated with Piknik Theatre, but the partnership allow the cast and crew of 18 professionals and locals to gain a new perspective.

“What’s so cool about this outdoor theatre format is that you are susceptible to the natural elements, like weather, and the actors are in the same space as the audience,” Karl said. “You have no fourth wall, and that just lends itself to a real familial setting with a vibrant, lively connection to the audience.”

Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” a play known for its dramatic scenes, is driven by the story of a merchant who must default on a large loan provided by an abused Jewish moneylender.

Featuring a mix of local actors, Handloff said “The Merchant of Venice” will evoke laughter, reflection and perhaps even disturbance, as each character embodies both a lighter and darker side.

“There is not one character in this piece you can look at and deem them a hero or a villain,” Handloff said. “This, in particular, has a lot of humor to it, but it’s also a bit disturbing.”

Part of the reason Handloff said he continues Piknik Theatre is the unpredictability of the outdoors.

It’s not impossible to witness a bear walk through the park. Though such an occurrence is highly unlikely, Handloff said that, no matter what happens, actors are susceptible to those elements and have an uncanny ability to work that into the performance.

“Especially in Shakespeare, when you have that luxury of the aside, literally talking to the audience, there’s adrenaline and ideas that just come to you,” Karl said. “You have to be really present in a scene with somebody, because that’s where the spontaneity happens.”

Since Shakespeare wrote for the masses, Handloff said the performances are accessible to all ages, with themes and will resonate with a variety of audiences.

Bring a picnic basket, a blanket and take a seat on the lawn at the Botanic Park for an evening of free outdoor Shakespeare comedy. The event is free, but donations are accepted.


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