Shakespeare in the Park at Telluride, Town Park Concerts in Ouray and Ridgway, Rainforest Baskets at Lustre Gallery
Shakespeare in the Park, an annual rite of summer, begins in Telluride this Saturday and continues through next week. This year’s presentation is Measure for Measure, an uneasy comedy that tussles with issues of truth, justice and mercy. Along with All’s Well That Ends Well and Troilus and Cressida, it’s one of Shakespeare’s so-called “problem” plays, a term that alludes to their endings, which inspire a sense of uneasiness, being neither truly sad nor happy. Many critics believe writing these plays marked a crucial turning point for Shakespeare, who was losing interest in his specialty – romantic comedies – and increasingly compelled towards darker worlds and themes (he wrote Hamlet around the same time).
Jeb Berrier, the play’s director, describes its design and feel as “a take on [the HBO series] Deadwood,” a Western set in the 1870s in Deadwood, S.D. Earlier this week, Berrier was concerned less with truth, justice and mercy in the Old West than with simply rallying the troops. Directing a play is like making a cake, he explained – there are various stages involved. With Shakespeare, “First there’s the language, and the meaning. Then you start shaping the show, and figuring out how people will move.” He had done all this with each actor, yet because of disparate schedules outside of the play, “I’ve never had my entire cast together at one time,” he said. “This is the week where that happens a bunch and you tune and tune and then, boom – it’s in front of the audience. Hopefully it all comes together.” When it does, it will be in a spectacular setting. The audience is seated on stage alongside the actors, Berrier noted, with a close-up view of the action, and a distant view of high peaks. “When we start, it’s still light,” he said, “But as it gets dark,” the mountains drop away, “And everything gets more focused.” After the last show, Berrier and his family will relocate to Portland, Ore., returning, however, for events like the mid-September Blues and Brews Festival, which he emcees, and for his sellout Presidents’ Weekend Telluride Comedy Festival. But, in a sense, Berrier has come full circle. Nineteen summers ago, Berrier, an actor as well as a director, appeared in his first Shakespeare production ever, also in Town Park. Its title: Measure for Measure.
Town Park Concerts in Ridgway and Ouray
Ever wondered where all those bands in the town park concert series each summer in Paonia, Ridgway and (lately) Ouray come from? The brain of Rob Miller. Miller’s a Paonia-based musician who toured for 10 years all over the west as part of the bluegrass band Sweet Sunny South. In the process, “I got a feel for how things work, when they work” when it comes to putting concerts together, he said. A native New Yorker, Miller had been booking bands since college at Clarkson University, and “was used to a little more culture” than Paonia offered a decade ago. When the Paradise Theatre opened there, “It had a nice stage. I thought, I know how to do this. I’ll book some bands.” His first choice was Yonder Mountain String Band; the group was pretty much unknown then, but has since gone on to become the top grossing bluegrass band in the world. “We brought in ranchers, miners, progressives and hippies,” Miller said of the experience. “It was completely non-polarized. No politics. Nothing but good music.”
In the intervening years, Miller has founded Pickin Productions and begun producing a summer concert series that has spread from Paonia to Ridgway (after he was contacted by then-Town Manager Greg Clifton) and Ouray (the town got in touch with Miller last year). Miller snags high-profile groups like the March Fourth Marching Band that could be unaffordable for a small town, but happen to be passing through on the right day (Thursday, in Ridgway’s case) on their way to or from a better-paying gig. “It’s a bit of a game, it’s a bit of an art, it’s a lot of networking,” he says of his job. The trick is in the mix. Miller follows high-profile bands that are “an atomic bomb of energy,” like March Fourth, with lower-key sounds the next week from bands like alt-country Shinyribs, the Austin, Tex., quartet fronted by Gourds’ lead singer Kevin Russell. This week in Ridgway, Miller will pour on the power again with Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, whose specialty is soul with a heavy dose of horns. Over the next few weeks, as the series migrates to Paonia, Miller’s got an Austin fiddler, electronica, Xydeco and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Del Scott on tap. Though the series wraps at the end of next month, expect Miller to serve up more, and more varied, musical styles and statements next summer. The Town of Ridgway has collaborated with Miller for over a decade, and “He’s always trying to keep it fresh. He’s never brought back anyone,” says Town Clerk Pam Kraft. As Miller puts it, “We feel like it’s an empty canvas every week.”
Rainforest Baskets at Lustre Gallery
From the green of local parks to that of the rainforest…next Thursday, July 26, the Lustre Gallery in Telluride will host an exhibit of museum-quality, contemporary Wounaan Basketry from weavers in Panama’s Darien Rainforest. The Wounaan tribe has just under 10,000 members; their baskets are prized for bold designs, in brilliant colors or crisp black, brown and white stripes. “The thing that attracted me to these baskets was the cultural motif – they are reminiscent of Native American Southwest basket and material. The quality is exceptional and the stitching is perfect,” says gallery owner Christine Reich. One of pieces on display, ‘Masterful Macaw and Greenery,’ by Miriam Negra, was worked on for 23 months, “an astounding length of time for an artwork to be living in a rainforest with all the challenges it faces during that time – creatures, humidity, sun, flooding, daily life, children,” said importer Jennifer Kuyper, who is coordinating this exhibit with the Lustre Gallery. Kuyper makes installment payments to the weavers, which allows them to continue their way of life: “The makers set the cost of each basket and receive the majority share of the income from gallery sales.” The stipends have enhanced the quality of what the weavers create. Twenty to thirty years ago, “these baskets’ craftsmanship was not like it was today,” Reich says. The sponsorships, which often extend over a period of years, “have brought these works to a whole new level.” The exhibit runs from July 26-28; the gallery is open each day until 8 p.m.