It’s the land of 10,000 lakes, hockey, Spam, the beloved late Prince, and…Shakespeare?

 

The Great River Shakespeare Festival is proud to have called Winona, Minnesota its home for all thirteen seasons of its existence, a period long enough that many forget how special its existence in this location really is. The festival is the only one of its kind in Minnesota, and one of the few Shakespeare festivals in the Midwest.

 

Even more inspiring is how many Minnesotan artists are a part of the festival this season. From actors to designers to administrative staff and everything in between, GRSF boasts more local company members than ever before.

 

“I’m so incredibly proud to be a member of the Twin Cities and the greater Minnesota arts community,” said Zach Curtis, who plays the title role in Julius Caesar and HELP I CANT REMEMBER in As You Like It.  “Having spent a decade in Northern Minnesota doing summer stock theater, and my entire career in the Twin Cities, I really can’t see a place I’d rather be.”  

 

Minnesota certainly has much to offer the artistic world. In fact, according to the Minneapolis Creative Index, the arts contributed $4.5 billion to the economy last year, a trend that is reverberating throughout the state. Doug Scholz-Carlson, the artistic director of the festival, described why the arts (and theater specifically) might be flourishing in the state: “People in the Minnesota theater scene are doing theater for the people who are actually in the audience,” he said. “I don’t get that sense that people are looking over their shoulders, hoping that this play is going to move to New York; it’s such a giving and friendly community. Theater communities can become very political, but that’s not here.”

 

Actor Silas Sellnow, who plays Orlando in As You Like It, Cinna in Julius Caesar, and a musician in Georama, is also grateful for the humility of his fellow Minnesotan artists. “A defining quality about Minnesota artists is the lack of ego,” he said. “On the whole, Minnesota artists are incredibly selfless and humble. There’s respect for artists in all stages of their careers. No one is looked down upon, and that kind of respect is really important for artistic creation.”

 

Curtis summed it up best. “People like to assume we’re a flyover state, and that it’s just cold here.  Yet in the last three to five years, you’re seeing all these articles and polls and reviews suggesting that the Twin Cities (and MN in general) might just be the best place in the country to live.  And the support of the arts by communities in MN is simply astonishing.”

 

Season 13 runs through July 31st. Tickets are on sale at 507-457-7900 and grsf.org.

 

Written by Emily Loof, GRSF Intern 2016