William Shakespeare passed away in his home in Stratford-upon-Avon four hundred years ago this April 23rd. Please join Great River Shakespeare Festival in remembering this great man by celebrating his life on Wednesday, April 20, 2016. (Details on event below.)
Often considered the greatest dramatist of all time, Shakespeare was baptized in Stratford on April 26,1564 and was thought to have been born three days earlier on April 23. By 1592, he was earning a living as an actor and playwright in London. In 1599, he and his business partners built their own theater on the south bank of the Thames River called the Globe. Tradition has it that Shakespeare died on his birthday, April 23, 1616, and records show he was interred at Trinity Church on April 25, 1616. He was survived by his daughters Susanna and Judith, and his wife, Anne Hathaway of Stratford. He was preceded in death by his son Hamnet who died of unknown causes at the age of 11.
During his lifetime William Shakespeare was credited with writing 37 plays (though some scholars believe as many as 40 plays), 154 sonnets, and 5 narrative poems. Although it took years to have his legacy preserved in the Folios, Shakespeare has left our minds or stages since. His words first arrived in America with the explorers and settlers, and by 1730 he had his first American production, Romeo and Juliet, in the young New York City. Soon after, productions took place in Philadelphia, PA and Charleston, SC. President George Washington was an avid theater goer, and frequented the great Lewis Hallam’s performances of Shakespeare’s plays in Williamsburg, VA. By 1849 Shakespeare was such an integral part of the fabric of life in America, that it sparked feud between supporters of the American tragedian Edwin Forrest, who was appearing down the street from his British counterpart Charles McCready, igniting the Astor Place Riots which killed more than twenty people.
Shakespeare made his mark very early in the history of Winona, MN. By 1885 the Winona Shakespeare Club was holding “fortnightly” meetings. They performed scenes from As You Like It at the home of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Garlock on March 21, 1888, and to celebrate the club’s anniversary in 1899, held their annual banquet at the elaborate Hotel Winona.
Just over one hundred years later, the work to build a lasting home for Shakespeare in Winona began in earnest, and by 2004 Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) produced its inaugural season with The Winter’s Tale and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Now in its 13th Season, GRSF, Winona State University and Saint Mary’s University, area high schools and community theaters collectively keep the life and words of Shakespeare alive. After 400 years, Shakespeare’s word have continued to inspire Winona and the entire globe, and will for generations to come.
Please join GRSF for a celebration of William Shakespeare’s life and 400th anniversary of his passing at the Hoff Celebration of Life Center, 3480 Service Drive in Winona, on Wednesday, April 20th from 5-7p.m. Together with event sponsors at Hoff, GRSF wishes to celebrate this significant anniversary and formally launch the Season 13 Campaign by toasting and reflecting on how much this great writer has meant in all of our lives. There will be music, food, drink, and birthday cake (since his birth and death day are the same date). Winona Poets Laureate past and present Emilio DeGrazia and Ken McCullough, GRSF Artistic Director Doug Scholz Carlson, and others will be reading from their favorite Shakespeare works, sharing remembrances of the Bard, and how his work has touched their lives. There will be a chance for others in attendance to share their experiences as well. In lieu of flowers, donations or memorials may be given to GRSF.