Shakespeare Thrives in Boulder Summer Festival

William Shakespeare discusses CSF’s production of “Taming of the Shrew” (2010) with picnickers. ©Laurel Kallenbach

To me, it just wouldn’t be summer without the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF), held for more than 50 years in Boulder.

Performed in the Mary Rippon Theatre (a lovely outdoor stage) on the University of Colorado campus, the plays are always quite wonderfully produced, and they are ably performed by a troupe of professional actors.

I personally believe that nothing beats the raw excitement of seeing live theatre under the stars, especially on a warm summer night.

(Yes, there are nights where it rains, and the audience huddles indoors waiting for the weather to clear. It usually does, and the show continues where it left off.)

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival performs in the outdoor amphitheater on the CU campus. Photo courtesy Colorado Shakespeare Festival

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival performs in the outdoor amphitheater on the CU campus. Photo courtesy Colorado Shakespeare Festival

I have a special connection with Boulder’s Colorado Shakespeare Festival: For 30 consecutive summers, my wind ensemble, called the Falstaff Trio (flute, clarinet and bassoon), has performed for the Green Shows before the plays.

Green Shows are the entertainment for picnickers in the Shakespeare Gardens before the show. We musicians get “paid” in tickets to the performances.

Pre-show picnicking is another special memory. Over the years on nights that I’m attending a performance, friends and I have spread our blanket under the trees and dined al fresco while listening to other musicians. Or we’ve listened in on theatre conversations: a costumed actor portraying Will Shakespeare wanders the grounds chatting with picnickers about the play they’re about to see.

A recorder player with the Boulder Renaissance Consort entertains at the 2010 Green Show. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Sharing fresh summer dishes and a bottle of wine is a timeless ritual—and sometimes our Shakespeare festival is the only time in the busy summer that we haul out the picnic basket.

Picnic tip: If you don’t have time to prepare food, the Festival sells boxed dinners, snacks, and beverages, including beer and wine. (It’s illegal to drink alcohol on the CU campus except for inside the Shakespeare Gardens). And, it’s fun to save dessert for intermission.)

Over the decades, I’ve seen so many wonderful plays by the Bard; the Festival also produces some non-Shakespeare plays each season, such as 2009’s excellent To Kill a Mockingbird.

With great affection I look back at all those Macbeths, Romeo and Juliets, Twelfth Nights, Hamlets and Midsummer Night’s Dreams.

Picnicking before the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is a high art. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Picnicking before the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is a high art. ©Laurel Kallenbach

The plays that are rarely done get produced too, though less often: I still fondly remember Coriolanus (1995), Much Ado About Nothing (1997), and Cymbeline (2016) as among the best productions I’ve seen.

Then there are fun quirks, such as the night a family of raccoons walked across the building gutters right behind the stage. Talk about stealing the show! We audience members were pointing at Momma and her four little ones as they ambled through a scene.

Long live the works of Shakespeare, and long live the Colorado Shakespeare Festival!

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Rocky Mountain Tea Festival Heats Up July in Boulder

The Rocky Mountain Festival of Tea is held annually at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. ©Laurel Kallenbach

The Rocky Mountain Festival of Tea is held annually at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. ©Laurel Kallenbach

I stare at the damp, scattered tea leaves inside my cup, which look like Chinese calligraphy: indecipherable, to me at least.

The bits of oolong left after I drank my tea should tell my future. “Soften your focus and follow your intuition,” advises Caroline Dow, who’s teaching a class on tea-leaf reading at Boulder’s Rocky Mountain Tea Festival. This annual celebration of the Far Eastern beverage is held in late July at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.

My tealeaves tell a good fortune. ©Laurel Kallenbach

I’m drawing a blank; my cup is a jumble of Xs and blobs. Just then, Dow instructs us to pass our cups to the person on our left and let them interpret our symbols. A woman from Santa Fe studies my leaves. She sees a dog, lots of leggy pieces dancing around, and a flying bird. We consult Dow’s list of images and their meanings.

The flying bird augers good news; the dog represents a faithful friend and protection. Moving legs sound hopeful for me because in three weeks I’m having hip surgery. The mystical leaves of the tea plant bear good tidings.

So begins my two-day sojourn into the amazing world of tea at the Rocky Mountain Tea Festival.

Tea 101

Want to learn the difference between oolong, puerh, green tea, and Lapsang Souchong? The Rocky Mountain Tea Festival brings together tea experts, chefs, importers and aficionados for seminars, workshops, and tea tastings—all at the spectacular Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.

Chef Lenny Martinelli demonstrates how to cook with tea. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Chef Lenny Martinelli demonstrates how to cook with tea. ©Laurel Kallenbach

Each year, chef Lenny Martinelli demonstrates how to cook with tea as an ingredient. This year we watched as he made Korean Lapsong Barbecue Ribs, Halumi Cheese with Watermelon, and Black Tea–Glazed Wings—and then got to taste!

The Tea Basics seminar is held by a different tea expert every year, and it focuses on selecting, storing, and brewing tea for your personal taste. For instance, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, drink tea brewed from full leaves; crumbled leaves have more surface area, so caffeine infuses the hot water more quickly. The class I took explored the history of tea, its origins, where it’s grown around the world, and how each type of tea is made to produce its unique flavor. We tasted green, oolong, black and white teas, comparing them side by side, sniffing their leaves, and learning brewing techniques for each varietal.

Tea party tables set up for the kids ©Laurel Kallenbach

Tea party tables set up for the kids ©Laurel Kallenbach

Festival Flavors

The ever-expanding Rocky Mountain Tea Festival draws people from all over the country and offers a four-course tea dinner in which all dishes are prepared with tea.

The menu might include delicacies such as Coconut Green Tea Shrimp Ceviche, Duck Breast with Dragon Eyes Black Tea fig reduction, and green tea ice cream.

A children’s tea party, complete with costumes, crafts, games, a giant teddy bear, iced herbal tisanes and treats such as tea sandwiches, scones, fresh fruit, and sweets. Activities include crafts, simple games, and a Do-it-Yourself dress-up area.

For me, a real highlight was the Japanese tea ceremony demonstrated by women in full traditional kimonos. The evening was a lovely cultural experience.

A Japanese tea ceremony demonstrated the ages-old meditative "way of tea." ©Laurel Kallenbach

A Japanese tea ceremony demonstrated the ages-old meditative “way of tea.” ©Laurel Kallenbach

Seated around a large table, about 30 of us watched the full ceremony, which is simple but detailed, and choreographed with great precision.

Afterward, we all received and frothed the bright-green Japanese matcha tea and sipped it slowly and with great reverence.

Tea Bazaar

Even if you don’t sign up for classes during the festival, you can always drop by the Dushanbe Teahouse and browse through the Tea Bazaar. You’ll find beautiful teapots and other tea-making gadgets, loose-leaf tea, cakes of tea leaves, books on tea, and more. You can taste the best flavors from the many manufacturers there—believe me, I was plenty caffeinated after walking through the rows of vendors!

Phoenix Collection tea tasting at the festival bazaar ©Laurel Kallenbach

Phoenix Collection tea tasting at the festival bazaar ©Laurel Kallenbach

By the end of the two-day festival, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call a tea connoisseur, but I sure know a lot more about tea! And now, whenever I need to have my fortune read, I know the answer to life’s questions lies in the bottom of a cup of my favorite oolong.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor