Thanks to a grant from the Laird-Norton Family Foundation, from January 3rd to the 14th four actors from the Great River Shakespeare Festival were in residence as teaching artists in the Winona Public Schools. As one of those actor/teachers, I ran into several people around town who were surprised to see us and asked “why on earth are you in Winona in January?” The Mississippi is actually quite beautiful this time of year and the highly anticipated Frozen River Film Festival is only weeks away, but I was proud to say that the real reason I was in Minnesota was to work with the students of Winona.
Our two-week, after-school Shakespeare Workshop at Winona Senior High School culminated in a public performance of Shakespeare scenes on January 14th. A few of the students will perform again on Sunday, January 30th at the Frozen River Film Festival. GRSF students performed difficult scenes from Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, Henry IV, Part I, Hamlet, Two Gentleman of Verona, Twelfth Night, and Othello. During the two weeks, we also visited various classrooms to teach Shakespeare, acting, public speaking, and to familiarize students with the work of GRSF.
Each day we were humbled by the talent and intelligence of the students with whom we worked. For me, it has become a truism that teaching young people about Shakespeare always also means learning Shakespeare from them. From paraphrased Shakespearean text at the Winona Area Learning Center — “Mercutio is saying Tybalt can dish it out, but he can’t take it” — to profound questions in our after school program — “Why doesn’t Hamlet give the same option to Ophelia, “to be or not to be” — our experience reminded us of the seemingly endless well of Shakespeare’s meanings and of the positive possibilities held within young people.
Working with these students in Winona always feels like something more than teaching the skill of Shakespearean acting. Theatre requires hard work, talent, and the mastery of technique, but it also asks us to look within ourselves with brutal honesty. Shakespeare’s plays in particular ask us to grapple with who we are in the world and what we believe. Acting Shakespeare demands vulnerability, trust, and a belief in your fellow actors. I was reminded so often in Winona of how important that experience can be to teenagers, and how important it continues to be to those of us who are fortunate enough to work as their mentors.
Andrew was joined in the residency by GRSF Acting Company members Christopher Gerson, Ryan Fonville and Kate Fonville (née Mazolla) all pictured on the left.
IRA owners who are 70 1/2 or older can make direct charitable distribution transfers from their IRA of up to $100,000 to qualified charities with no additions to taxable income. This opportunity to make a charitable distribution has been extended for 2010 (if you make the distribution prior to January 31, 2011) and through the tax year of 2011, much the same as it was for tax years 2006 – 2009. The most common way to make a charitable distribution is to direct your Required Minimum Distribution toward the charity of your choice thereby reducing your income. The Great River Shakespeare Festival is a qualified charity and we would love it if you would consider us in your plans. If you’re considering donating in this form please contact Brian Frederick at 507-474-7900 x 116 or by email at brianf@GRSF.org in addition to consulting with your tax advisor.