First time at the Festival?
Not to worry! We’ve got lots of tips for those of you who may be new to the theater, new to Shakespeare, new to Winona, or all of the above. Scroll down for some ideas about what to do when you’re here, how the festival works, and other fun tidbits.
Thanks for joining us – we’re so glad you’re here!
Great River Shakespeare Festival is a not-for-profit, professional Equity theater in residence at Winona State University (WSU).
This means we are fortunate to have a great relationship with a university that allows us to use their facilities for the duration of our festival, but we are not affiliated with the university. All of our theatrical performances take place INDOORS in the WSU DuFresne Performing Arts Center, in either the Vivian Fusillo Mainstage Theater or the Dorothy B. Magnus Black Box Theater. Other events like our Pre-Show Conversations take place outside of the theater building near the fountain; some special events will take place on the green space in the middle of campus. We will have LOTS of signs, so you won’t miss us!
Oh boy. Is there anything to do? In the summer? Where do we start?
It surprises many people that a professional theater company comprised of seasoned artists from all over the country draws thousands to this small Minnesotan town every summer, but once you visit, you’ll understand the magic of Winona.
There are endless options for outdoor recreation: hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, or just strolling downtown. Thanks to our wonderful visitor’s bureau, Visit Winona, you can find tons of information about all these activities in one place. Check out their website HERE for some recreation ideas.
Winona is also rife with great history, which you can learn more about at one of our museums: the Winona County Historical Society is a great place to start – or check out the Polish Heritage Museum!
Need more than Shakespeare to satisfy your cultural itch? Winona is home to one of the premiere art museums in the country. The Minnesota Marine Art Museum is less than two miles from the theater, and there you visit with works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Gauguin, Cezanne, Monet, and more.
There are few things we love more than first-time theatergoers here at GRSF. New experiences are always exciting (if a bit nerve wracking), and we feel honored that you’d take a chance on us.
Here’s some basic information about what happens when you come to the theater. For more specific questions about tickets and the box office, click HERE.
How early should I get there?
If you need to pick up your tickets from Will Call, give yourself about 5 minutes to do that in case there is a long line. The Box Office opens 90 minutes before the show starts, so you’ll have plenty of time to pick up your tickets! Didn’t purchase a ticket yet? Not to worry – there’s a window in the lobby where you can do that, too. You can use cash, check, or card to purchase tickets. Make sure to also check out the Pre-Show Conversation, which begins about 30 minutes before the show starts.
What’s a Pre-Show Conversation?
Pre-Show Conversations are led by the assistant directors of each production, and will give you insight into the “world” of the play, familiarize you with the characters, any history, and you’ll also get a handout to take into the theater with you! We want to make sure that you don’t have to do any homework to understand the play – we do it all for you!
When can I get to my seat?
We’ll open the doors to the theater 30 minutes before the show starts, which means you have plenty of time to find your seat. There are signs posted in the lobby to guide you to the right doors, and seasoned ushers who will assist you in finding your specific seat.
Can I use my phone in the theater?
Yes and no. Before the show starts, you can use your phone. Make sure to check in on social media and let friends and family know you’re there. You can check in on Facebook or tag @grshakes on Instagram. Make sure that your phone is on SILENT – or better yet, OFF before the show begins. There is nothing worse than being annoyed that someone’s phone is ringing, only to find out it’s yours! No photography or phone usage is allowed during performances.
Is there air conditioning?
Yes. We perform indoors in the summer, so we will have the air conditioning running. If you get chilly easily, we recommend bringing a wrap or a sweater. Because the actors are performing under very hot lights, the A/C is sometimes on a little higher than some people prefer.
What about snacks?
Food is not allowed in the theater, but we do have concessions available to snack on before the performance and at intermission. Drinks are allowed in the theater if they are in GRSF cups, which can be purchased with your beverage at the concession area. Once you have purchased a cup, you can reuse it and bring it back with you if you so choose. If you have cough drops or mints that you will need during the show, unwrap them before the action of the play begins. You don’t want to miss the middle of someone’s line because of a CRINKLE CRINKLE CRINKLE sound!
If I have mobility issues, is there a place for me to sit?
Yes! We work hard to make the theater accommodating to all patrons. There is an accessible entrance to the Performing Arts Center, as well as a side entrance to the theater that does not require going up or down any stairs. If you need accessible seating, please make sure to let the Box Office staff know so they can have an usher ready to assist you when you arrive at the theater.
Where should I park? Do I need to pay for it?
There is free parking at Winona State University during the summer. We recommend using the Gold Parking Lot, which is adjacent to the Performing Arts Center, where you’ll come to see the performance. You can find a map of the WSU campus HERE. Parking in the Gold Lot is FREE and accessible from Main St. or Mark (11th) St. It does sometimes get crowded, so allow yourself some time to find a spot that’s right for you!
Can I bring my kid(s) with me?
GRSF believes that people of any age can understand and appreciate Shakespeare. We do request that only children ages 6 and above come to performances. All children and students need to have their own tickets. Student tickets range from $10-$15/student. We also host a Chill with Will night, where students can attend for free. You can learn about that HERE. Some plays are not recommended for children under 16. If you are concerned about content, you can learn about the plays HERE.
How long are the plays?
The length of our plays varies, but generally a Shakespeare play will run about 2 1/2 hours plus an intermission (still less than a Lord of the Rings movie). Some plays may be shorter – only about 100 minutes with no intermission. The length of the play you will be seeing is always posted in the lobby, or you can ask the Box Office staff about the running time.
When do I clap? Can I laugh?
YES! Laugh, cry, gasp – react to the play as you feel is necessary! Applause usually happens right before intermission and at the end of the show, when the actors will take a bow. Shakespeare wrote a lot of his plays with the idea that the actors would be talking to you, and he often planned on getting a reaction! A play is so much more fun when everyone in the room is engaged, and that is what makes theater so special. You are experiencing something live and of the moment and sharing it with hundreds of other people – so please, have fun!