A bit of background on the Great River Shakespeare Festival from the Welcome statement in the season program:
"Everything we do at Great River Shakespeare Festival aspires to create conversations with and among our company and audience....We start with Shakespeare because, of any work of art we could choose, Shakespeare's plays give us the best chance to inspire deeply nuanced, complicated, unexpected conversations that embrace with compassion the universal experience of being human and welcome every person into that conversation with their own unique and valuable perspective....At this moment, we need the honest give and take of real conversation more than ever."
|Melissa Maxwell, Anna Sundberg and Christopher Peltier in|
Shakespeare in Love (Dan Norman)
Friends, we LOVE the theater festival experience. Shows are performed by a company, in repertory, so in a matter of days, you have the opportunity to see the same actors performing different roles in several plays. Not only is it a super impressive feat of acting, but you get the opportunity to really see an actor's range. We have become devotees of Wisconsin's American Players Theatre, and the Stratford Festival in Canada should be on every avid theatergoer's bucket list. But Great River Shakespeare Festival is right in our backyard, and it's a gem not to be missed!
In order to get the full festival experience, we started our visit to GRSF on a Saturday morning with one of their Front Porch Conversations. These are "moderated discussions with artists, academics, and fellow community members to more deeply explore the themes and ideas that begin in the theater."
|All's Well That Ends Well (Dan Norman)|
All’s Well That Ends Well explores how we can grow up under pressure. In this play, we find Helena, a poor orphan, in love with Bertram, the son of a count. When Helena saves the life of the King of France, he grants her permission to marry whomever she chooses, and she chooses Bertram. Unfortunately, Bertram thinks Helena is beneath him, and abruptly leaves her. What follows is a “problem play,” a story of forgiveness, grace, and learning to have humility as we mature which is as messy and beautiful as a life well lived.
|Christopher Peltier and Caroline Amos in All's Well |
That Ends Well (Dan Norman)
On Saturdays, between the matinee and the evening performance, GRSF offers a Narrated Set Changeover, where audience members are invited to stay and watch the transformation from set to set. We didn't stay for this, but it sounds super interesting.
This year, GRSF has Concerts on the Green an hour and a half before every performance. We listened to music (Burke Band/Patina according to the handy bookmark of events for the weekend), grabbed a Winona Burrito from a food truck, enjoyed an Island City Radler in the wee beer garden and headed off to our evening show.
|Christopher Peltier and Benjamin Boucvalt in |
Shakespeare in Love (Dan Norman)
"I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all."Twin Cities favorite Anna Sundberg (now based in NYC) plays Viola De Lesseps with zeal and affection, and Christopher Peltier makes a charming William Shakespeare. Again, the cast is uniformly excellent with a definite standout in Benjamin Boucvalt, who creates such a roguish, irrepressible Kit Marlowe that we definitely felt the loss when his character disappears from the play. Christopher Gerson gives another hilarious performance as Fennyman, the producer who learns to love the theater and his small role in it.
|Shakespeare in Love (Dan Norman)|
On Sunday morning, after Cherry and Spoon ran the Will Run (a 28-furlong race around Lake Winona hosted annually by GRSF--with the CUTEST tee shirts), we joined some of the company at Blooming Grounds coffee shop for a Company Conversation with Tonia Sina, Artistic Director Doug Scholz-Carlson, Managing Director Aaron A. Young, and Marketing & Sales Director Eileen Moeller. They put it on Facebook Live, so you can see it below!
This was another fascinating discussion of intimacy on the stage, and what makes it truly unique is that it was open to the public, but also included members of the GRSF company, so the discussion was wide-ranging and still very relevant. We feel so fortunate to have come down to GRSF this weekend and have to been introduced to the world of intimacy direction.
|A Midsummer Night's Dream (Dan Norman)|
|A Midsummer Night's Dream |
Friends, put Great River Shakespeare Festival on your theater to-do list. Winona is a lovely small town, it's not terribly far from the Twin Cities, and the theater? Is unbeatable.
We'll leave you with these words from Doug Scholz-Carlson and Aaron A. Young's Welcome statement:
"We offer instead a few stories. ... You'll certainly need your brain, but this summer you will use it in service of your heart. We won't untangle all the great issues of the day, but in this little corner of the world, for the fifteenth summer, let's have a conversation."