Great River Shakespeare Festival Brings Diverse Productions And A Rich Festival To Winona

Great River Shakespeare Festival Brings Diverse Productions And A Rich Festival To Winona

Great River Shakespeare Festival kicks off its 16th season at the end of June, producing Shakespeare's Macbeth and Cymbeline, as well as a world premiere adaptation of Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, Nilaja Sun's No Child..., and White Rabbit, Red Rabbit by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour.

An arts anchor in scenic Winona and southeastern Minnesota, Great River Shakespeare Festival has made a name for itself producing dynamic, crystal clear productions of Shakespeare's plays, as well as other classics and bold contemporary work. In addition to productions, the festival offers an array of community events that compliment the work on stage. Weekly Company Conversations offer behind-the-scenes perspectives from the many people who bring the summer theatre festival to life. Front Porch Conversations on diverse topics resonate with the themes of the plays and their context in the world at large. Patrons enjoy picnic dinners, "games on the green" as well as informal pre-show lectures before performances. The festival also offers a wide range of educational programming for children, youth and adults interested in acting, directing, design and filmmaking.

Opening the season on June 29th is Macbeth, directed by Festival founder Paul Mason Barnes in a visceral, fast, bloody rendering. Barnes describes a play that "throws down the gauntlet for directors, actors and designers" to tell the story of warfare, witchcraft and a soldier's violent rise to the Scottish throne.

On Sunday, June 30th the festival opens Cymbeline, a "delightfully surprising story - especially since many in our audience will not have seen it before," according to Doug Scholz-Carlson, Great River Shakespeare Festival's Artistic Director. This rarely produced play, written near the end of Shakespeare's life, chronicles a shift from a world of justice and retribution to a world of grace and forgiveness.

Next to open on July 6th is No Child..., Nilaja Sun's one-person play based on her time as a teaching artist in the New York City public schools. Melissa Maxwell stars, transforming into seventeen distinct characters wrapped up in the life of a 10th grade class in an under-resourced school. Tarah Flanagan, recently named GRSF's Associate Artistic Director, directs this vital, tour-de-force performance.

The festival presents its first commissioned piece, a world premiere adaptation of Carlo Goldoni's The Servant of Two Masters, starting July 7th. Beth Gardiner adapts and directs this classic story of love triangles, mischief and intrigue with a joyful, fresh perspective. "You'll meet age-old comedic characters with contemporary flair. It's a hilarious show that'll leave you cheering." Servant, with original music by Silas Sellnow, will perform both in the Vivian Fusillo Theatre in the WSU Performing Arts Center, and in four casual, offsite events at bars in Rochester, Homer and La Crosse, WI.

Rounding out the season is White Rabbit, Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour. In this unique production an actor receives a sealed script and performs it, without previous knowledge of the story. Audience and actor encounter the piece simultaneously. Several company members will take on this exciting challenge throughout the season.

Designing the season are Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz (Lighting design Macbeth, Cymbeline, No Child...), Rebecca Bernstein (Costume design Cymbeline, Servant), Katharine Horowitz (Sound design and composition Cymbeline, sound design Servant), Scott O'Brien (Sound design and composition Macbeth, Sound design No Child...), Avery Reagan (Lighting design Servant), Kyle Schellinger (Costume design Macbeth), and R. Eric Stone (Scenic design Macbeth, Cymbeline, Servant).

The Great River Shakespeare Festival season runs June 29 - August 4 in the Performing Arts Center on the campus of Winona State University, 450 Johnson Street, Winona, MN 55987. Offsite productions of Servant of Two Masters will run in July at Forager Brewery in Rochester, MN; Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse, WI; and the Black Horse Bar & Grill in Homer, MN.

For tickets and more information, please contact the GRSF Box Office at 121 E. Third St, Winona, Winona Visitor Center at 924 Huff St, Winona, or call 507-474-7900. Patrons can purchase tickets to all GRSF performances over the phone, in person, or online at

Great River Shakespeare Festival is a nonprofit, professional Equity theatre company in Winona, MN, dedicated to dynamic productions of Shakespeare's plays, extensive education and community outreach programs, and comprehensive theatre training. Their production season has become a staple in the Winona arts scene since its inception 16 years ago. For more information visit

Photo credit: Grace Hill

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