Don’t take our word for it – here’s what festival-goers are saying:
For information about press-quality photos and interviews, please scroll to the bottom of this page.
Fabulous performances in a beautiful theater! They also have “fidget-friendly” performances so more people of all ages can experience Shakespeare/theatre!
If you are going to be near Winona in June or July, make sure to visit a play at the Great River Shakespeare Festival. Their productions are terrific!!!
The Great River Shakespeare Festival puts a fabulous new twist on all its interpretations of the plays. I love seeing their shows! They have some of the best Shakespeare summer camps, too.
Immersive professional theatre. GRSF puts on phenomenal plays designed to reach Shakespeare lovers and newbies. Highly, highly recommend.
The acting is amazing. The sets are fascinating. Several of the actors are musicians and dancers too–adding great dimension to the shows. And the town of Winona is wonderful, especially beautiful Lake Winona… A fabulous weekend vacation.
Live theatre done right. Accessible, interesting and enjoyable. This is the best live Shakespeare experience you are likely to have for a thousand miles.
2019 Press & Reviews
By William Shakespeare
“In an interesting casting twist, Alex Givens plays both Leonatus and Cloten; as the former he is sensitive and brave and searching, and as Cloten Givens is the complete buffoon. He is excellent as both…Anique Clements as the most admirable Imogen is at once vulnerable, fierce, and loyal. Other standouts among the truly stellar cast are Tarah Flanagan as the wise and loyal servant Pisanio, Benjamin Boucvalt as a creepy Iachimo (who gives us a very uncomfortable bed chamber scene with the sleeping Imogen), and Michael Fitzpatrick as the king who is quick-tempered but easily lead by others.”
“(T)he production offers a richly satisfying introduction to Cymbeline and a wholly entertaining and engaging time at the theater. Oddly, the title character is not in truth the heart of the story. That distinction goes to Imogen, who, like many of Shakespeare’s women, is given a complex inner life and authentic voice. She is persuasively played by Anique Clements, an actor who conveys emotions as if drawn from deep within: euphoric in love, crushed by betrayal, enlightened in forgiveness. In playing Imogen’s two suitors, Posthumus—the one she cherishes—and Cloten—the one she rebuffs—Alex Givens stands as co-lead to Clements, creating two wholly different characters, one a comic fop, the other a star-crossed lover, giving each a fully realized portrayal.
Michael Fitzpatrick brings a royal tone to his Cymbeline, shining upon the occasions to rage or rejoice. As his Queen, Melissa Maxwell is fully realized villain, her ambition driving her every act as she conspires to deceive her husband, the king. She does admirable as Belarius, the man who long ago kidnapped Cymbeline’s two sons, now living secluded deep in the forest. Benjamin Boucvalt is persuasively reptilian as Iachimo, making sport of love and faithfulness, and Tarah Flanagan projects warmth and fidelity as the servant Pisanio, who trusts his own judgment to save his master and his mistress from themselves. William Sturdivant, Blake Henri and De’Onna Prince round out the cast, all doing fine work in roles that support the play’s thrusts and parries.”
-Arty Dorman, Talkin’ Broadway
Not only had I never seen Cymbeline, but I’d never even heard of it before GRSF announced their season last year. It turns out it’s one of the few Shakespeare plays that are neither a full out tragedy (everybody dies) or a full out comedy (everybody gets married); there are elements of both tragedy and comedy, kind of like life. I like those sorts of plays, and I really enjoyed this one. Thanks to the director, cast, and dramaturgical info it’s very clear and easy to follow, and the heavy themes are balanced out by moments of lightness and humor. The story is inspired by the legend of Cymbeline, the King of Britain in 0 AD (Michael Fitzpatrick), his two long-lost sons (Blake Henri and William Sturdivant), his daughter (Anique Clements) with a husband her father does not approve of (Alex Givens), the King’s new wife (Melissa Maxwell), and her son (also Alex Givens, in a totally opposite characterization) who she desires to marry to the princess. As one of my blogger friends said, the plot is almost like a “Shakespeare’s greatest hits” playlist – star-crossed lovers, poison that just makes one look dead, long-lost family coming back from the dead, people in disguise, and royal succession. But it’s put together in a satisfying way, including a most astounding appearance by the god Jupiter.
By Carlo Goldoni & Adapted by Beth Gardiner
“Director Beth Gardiner’s new adaptation is exceptionally delightful. The talented seven-person cast (Gracie Belt, Daniel Stewart, Andrew Carlson, Leah Gabriel, Christopher Gerson, Victoria Nassif, and Silas Sellnow) starts the show sort of as themselves, as actors, discussing what show to do before launching into the story. It’s very fun and playful, and somehow feels loose and almost improvised at times, while obviously being very intricately choreographed. Silas Sellnow plays the titular servant (who is always hungry and uses words about food as exclamations or curses) and also wrote the music, which is charming and clever and makes use of a myriad of noise-making gadgets. The play utilizes Shakespearean tropes like mistaken identities and a woman disguised as a man as it tells this silly and fun story. One audience volunteer gets to play a role in the play, but the entire audience is played to, especially those of us lucky enough to sit onstage, for an incredibly joyful experience.”
The cast is hilarious; they start the play as a troupe of travelling players deciding what story to tell. They also enlist the help of one audience member to play a character – the person’s job is to say either “Yes” or “Humbug” depending on which side of the painted skillet is held up. It’s pretty great. Of special mention are Rebecca Bernstein’s colorful costumes, which are a delight. And the production is full of physical comedy that works because it is tightly choreographed and performed beautifully by the cast…Silas Sellnow as Truffaldino – our title character – is the comedic glue that holds the play together. As the quick-thinking (and very hungry) servant, Sellnow is like a gangly vaudeville comic who has been doing this since time began. His verbal timing, coupled with his stellar physical slapstick, is a joy to watch.
-Kathleen Kenney Peterson, Broadway World
By William Shakespeare
The design team has wrought a unified vision where the setting, costumes, light and sound meld into a fully formed environment that encases the mortal characters acting out their parts in a wave of history. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are fully realized in the performances of Andrew Carlson and Leah Gabriel. Carlson projects Macbeth’s initial caution, his reluctance to push too hard to bring forth the witches’ vision, stating “If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me.” In the course of events he becomes ever more persuaded that everything he does is ordained to be what must be done. Why else would the witches tell him he is invincible, as he interprets their second prophesy?
In his final battle, Carlson’s Macbeth displays the certitude of one who believes himself chosen for glory.
Gabriel takes Lady Macbeth on the opposite journey, flush with certainty at the start and telling her husband to “Screw your courage to the sticking point.” When he is unsteady, she is willing to do hideous deeds, only to fall apart as guilt and fear steer her to madness. Gabriel’s presentation of the mad scene, with its famous “Out, out, damn spot!” is frightening, and a bit heartbreaking, as Lady Macbeth seems to grasp far too late how she has been fatally wounded by her own flawed nature. In Carlson and Gabriel’s first scene together, their piqued ambitions take on a sensuality that further fans the flames of the evil to come.
The ensemble works as one to maintain the onrush of action, bringing clarity and force to each characterization. Christopher Gerson is particularly stirring as Macduff, challenger to Macbeth’s tyranny, and Tarah Flanagan does exquisite work in the small role of Lady Macduff. Blake Henri as Ross, Daniel Stewart as Angus, and Benjamin Boucvalt as Banquo are other standouts. The three witches are portrayed by Anique Clemens, Victoria Nassif and Silas Sellnow, made otherworldly both by the delivery of their lines and their grotesque appearance, with credit to hair and makeup supervisor Mary Capers. They state their prophecies in a straightforward manner, not as a call to action, but as matters of course. It is Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s choices that turn those statements into their own death sentences.
Kyle Schellinger’s darkly shaded costumes, R. Eric Stone’s vault-like stage setting, with its ingenious representation of Burnham Wood, the storms and battles conjured by Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz’s lighting, and Scott O’Brien’s sound design work together to create a paradoxical sense of a life that is both sumptuous and ferociously menacing.
-Arty Dorman, Talkin’ Broadway