Past Press Coverage
Piknik Theatre Festival is a program of The Great American Laughing Stock Company (GALSCO), a not-for-prophet community theater organization based in Steamboat Springs Colorado. Stuart Handloff, a certified theatre educator with a Masters Degree in Public Administration, 40 years of theatrical training, and a Masters Degree from the New Zealand National Drama School, started the Piknik Theatre Festival in 2008. He saw an opportunity to bring together local performers and guest artists from the finest New Zealand conservatories to fill the theatre performance and theatre education void in Steamboat Springs. This vision, along with a passion for the community, has lead to the creation of the Piknik Theatre Festival. Community residents and visiting guests attend performances with open seating so audience members can bring blankets and picnic baskets to enjoy both the theatrical event and an evening outdoors. Each show runs just over an hour in length and combines high artistic quality with simple technical values. The Festival also includes two, week-long, low-cost theatre workshops for children, introducing them to the fun and mystery of performance.
Piknik Theatre Festival embodies the mission to support the human spirit’s need to create and to transform itself though theatre. Christian Penny, head of the directing program at the New Zealand National Drama School has stated, “Theatre exists in the coming together to share air, the ritual of real life, ephemeral and transitory, with the very real possibility that something totally transforming will reveal itself.” This is the spiritual purpose behind GALSCO’s work.
Simply put: we do theatre outdoors, in a picnic setting. The beauty of the Yampa Valley is our stage, bringing us out of the enclosed theatre box. Simple production values are enhanced by the natural environment which creates a setting like no other; one that is as spontaneous and diverse as the cast itself. Actors interact with their surroundings by jumping into ponds, acting through entire rain storms, hiding behind stumps and emerging from trees.
Through partnerships with local performers and guest artists from New Zealand, we build a spirit of community. Community means theatre that touches all ages, abilities, cultures, genres from Shakespeare to Seuss, and is indelibly printed with the values of the Yampa Valley. Having the rare opportunity to incorporate New Zealand culture into the Festival reinforces the strong connections with family and community that reside in both countries. The Pacific Island culture indigenous to New Zealand stresses the importance of family (whanau) and community (iwi). These reflections of our own cultural identity allow the audience the opportunity to see itself through another lens and to more strongly appreciate these two values.
The acting graduates from New Zealand’s drama schools are some of the strongest, best trained, and highly skilled young performers in the world. Their willingness to come to Steamboat Springs on holiday without compensation and perform is an extraordinary resource for our directors and a treasure for local artists and audiences. Local artists hail from various groups including Steamboat High School's drama program, Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Perry-Mansfield Performing Art School. The quality of performance, the unique location, and the strong cultural connection to native New Zealand all set the Festival apart from other performance art in the Rocky Mountain Region. The result has been a theatre festival that is much more than just quality programming; it is spiritual food for the community.
*NOTE: THE DEVISED PIECE
One of our most unique programming elements is the “devised” production, one of the two performance pieces shown in repertory format. A devised work is one that is created by the actors and director during the rehearsal process using a major theme or question as a provocation. For example, In 2010 the question was to explore the impacts of colonization on indigenous lands and culture. The action on stage focused on the settlement of New Zealand but applies universally to the European settlement of the Americas; or the impacts of Western culture in the Middle and Far East. The devised work allows a real blending of skills from all artists, local and international, to create a performance that transcends cultural differences and creates true diversity.
-Stuart Handloff, Artistic Director for GALSCO and the Piknik Theatre Festival
Much Ado About Nothing:by W. Shakespeare, directed by Stuart Handloff
Civilisation: Devised piece* written by Adam Donald, Felix Preval, Simon Leary, Kate McGill,
Martine Gray, Eva Harrison and Steve Losack, Directed by Adam Donald