Julius Caesar. Dir. James Edmondson. Perf. Mark Murphey, Ana Marcu, Stephanie Lambourn, De’Onna Prince, Jason Rojas, Peter Eli Johnson, Ted Kitterman, Zach Curtis, Zach Curtis, Ana Marcu, Michael Fitzpatrick, Jason Rojas, John Maltese, Mark Murphey, Silas Sellnow, Benjamin Boucvalt, Caroline Amos, Tarah Flanagan, JuCoby Johnson, Rob Hancock, and Ted Kitterman. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2015.
As You Like It. Dir. Doug Scholz-Carlson. Perf. Mark Murphey, Ana Marcu, Stephanie Lambourn, De’Onna Prince, Jason Rojas, Peter Eli Johnson, Ted Kitterman, Zach Curtis, Zach Curtis, Ana Marcu, Michael Fitzpatrick, Jason Rojas, John Maltese, Mark Murphey, Silas Sellnow, Benjamin Boucvalt, Caroline Amos, Tarah Flanagan, JuCoby Johnson, Rob Hancock, and Ted Kitterman. Great River Shakespeare Festival. Winona, Minnesota. 2016.
The Great River Shakespeare Festival has provided great Shakespeare to Minnesota for thirteen years now. They did, among other remarkable productions, a perfect Twelfth Night, a masterpiece of A Comedy of Errors, a great Othello, a brilliant Taming of the Shrew, and marvelous versions of both Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. They also put on Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing last year.
The 2016 season starts on 24 June 2016 and runs through 31 July 2016, and you all must go. Yes, even those of you who live in states other than Minnesota must go.
For ease and speed, I'm putting up a FAQ style list based on last year's.
Q: What Shakespeare plays are being done tremendously by GRSF this year?
A: Julius Caesar and As You Like It. Didn't you look at the first part of this post?
Q: "Shakespeare Festival," eh? That means it's outdoors, right?
A: No, no. It's in a lovely, intimate, carefully-climate-controlled theatre on the campus of the University of Winona. You're thinking of various Shakespeare i' th' Park performances. Don't get me wrong—Shakespeare i' th' Park is great, but you do have to worry about rain and heat and mosquitos and seating and so on and so forth. At the GRSF, you can watch top-notch professional theatre in air conditioned splendor.
Q: Well, that sounds great. Can I just see the plays any day of the week all summer long?
A: Ah, there's something you should plan right now. The last show will be on July 31. Here's a handy calendar for your scheduling convenience.
Q: Man! That's more than a month of Shakespeare, but I'm sure it will go by quickly! I'll get my tickets right away! Now, they just just Shakespeare, right?
A: Actually, no. They're also doing a musical called Georama this year. For the past few years, they've done a third show, but you don't hear much about those shows here because of Bardfilm's keen interest in the Shakespeare side of things.
Q: All right. That sounds good. But all there is to do in Winona is watching plays by Shakespeare, right?
A: Although that might be reason enough, there is a constant stream of other Shakespeare-related material happening in conjunction with the GRSF. Indeed, I was astonished at how much activity there was! There are narrated set changes, camps for young actors and designers, an apprentice program (they're doing Coriolanus this year), conversations with the actors and directors, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Q: [Skeptically] Well, yeah. Shakespeare. And Shakespeare-related stuff. There's nothing else in Winona, then?
A: Egad, no! There's so much more! Again, Bardfilm's concerns focus on the Shakespearean, but there are concerts on the green between shows many afternoons, and there are really quite marvelous food trucks there. There are coffee shops and restaurants, and there's live music. And the scenery! Why, the two-hour drive from the Twin Cities is worth it just for the amazing scenic views of the Mississippi river along Highway 61 (the highway Bob Dylan revisited). And the river in Winona is beautiful—the bluffs with the occasional eagle flying over them are gorgeous and relaxing.
Q: Terrific! We can have great Shakespeare, but we can also get away from all the Shakespeare if we need to.
A: Yes. Well, technically. I mean, you can eat at a nice restaurant overlooking the river or listen to the concert on the green or hang out at a coffee shop—but I should warn you that you're very likely to overhear conversations about Shakespeare just about everywhere you go. That's a great draw for me: the whole town seems fascinated by Shakespeare and eager to discuss the shows the GRSF is putting on and Shakespeare in general. But if you really need some Shakespeare-free moments, a quiet stroll by the river will usually go uninterrupted. But I can't promise you won't start to think about Ophelia when you're down by the river.
Q: You've convinced me. I'm off to plan my visit right now.
A: I'm so glad! You won't regret it. If I see you there, don't be overawed. Just step right up, ask for an autograph, and we can chat some about Shakespeare—or even other topics.
Q: Oh! One more thing. I know it's going to be great, but are there any trailers of the plays that I can use to convince my friends, co-workers, spouse, neighbors, and others to come see the shows with me?
A: That's a great thought! Thanks for asking. Yes, I'll embed a trailer for each Shakespeare play right here / right now!
There's so much more that could be said about the GRSF—but why don't I get some other work done and you find a way to get there to see for yourself?
Links: The Great River Shakespeare Festival.