The Shakespeare classics continue in repertory to July 24 in Winona, Minnesota, the small town whose leaders embraced the idea of resident summer Shakespeare festival. This is the second year for the Equity troupe, overseen by producing directors Paul Mason Barnes (who staged Much Ado), Mark Hauck and Alec Wild (who helms Richard III). Last summer, The Winter's Tale and A Midsummer Night's Dream were staged.
"We're going for a more mature comedy — don't want to load us up just on early stuff right away — and we wanted to get out there with our first history as soon as possible," Barnes told Playbill.com. "Last season's bill was successful in that we took a calculated risk with The Winter's Tale, balanced/contrasted with Dream — "something familiar, something risky," as we said in our promotional material."
Barnes explained, "We think the two plays have significant links: Much Ado is probably his most rhetorical comedy — and mostly in prose; Richard his most rhetorical history — and primarily in verse — so the language challenges for the company are great, which we love. Interestingly, Much Ado is, in part, about men returning from war learning how to adapt behavior to a world newly at peace; Richard is, in part, about a world newly at peace being corrupted and rivened by a man hell-bent (literally and metaphorically) on making war and slaughtering his way to the top."
Performances play the 435-seat proscenium space — dubbed the Festival Theatre for five weeks — at the Performing Arts Center on the campus of Winona State University. Inaugural season actors Heidi Armbruster, Aya Cash, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Christopher Gerson, Kern McFadden, David Mann, Kim Martin-Cotton, and Doug Scholz-Carlson will be joined by Michael Fitzpatrick, Carla Noack, Jacques Roy and Jack Sanderson.
Also joining the 2005 acting company are Emily Daly, daughter of actor Jon Daly, and 2004 GRSF Acting Apprentice Company member Chamaio Cheyenne-Rindge.
"Once again, company members will come from all over the country: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Minneapolis, New York, Milwaukee, Denver," Barnes said in a statement. "In addition, we've got a very strong base of local involvement from Winona itself and the surrounding communities."
In addition to the three producing directors, resident costume designer Rosemary Ingham will return to design costumes for Richard III and Much Ado About Nothing. The technical production side of the Festival will be led again by production manager Rick Barbour, and technical director Erik Paulson.
Joining costume designer Ingham and co-producing director/festival set designer Hauck is lighting designer Kenton Yeager, and composer Gregg Coffin (Much Ado About Nothing). Minneapolis-based sound designer Andy Mayer returns for GRSF's production of Richard III; Maureen Janson returns as choreographer for Much Ado About Nothing.
Paul Sannerud, of Viterbo University in LaCrosse, joins the company as properties director.
Michael Shipley, the inaugural season text/vocal coach and Apprentice Acting Company mentor, resumes those duties for the 2005 season.
The Great River season includes related concerts, talkbacks, lectures and rituals meant to create a genuine festival atmosphere in the college town.
For more information, call (507) 474-7900 or visit www.grsf.org.
The first season of Great River Shakespeare Festival (June 25-July 25, 2004) offered A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Winter's Tale. The producing partners have ambitions for the fest to be a major annual event complete with contemporary plays, commissions, world premieres and its own home.
But one step at a time, said co-producing director Paul Mason Barnes.
"We think of ourselves as a contemporary but not conceptual theatre company," Barnes told Playbill.com in 2004. "We want the productions to scream 'playwright' and not 'director.'"
A trio of producing directors — Barnes (of Ashland, OR), Mark Hauck (of Minneapolis) and Alec Wild (of Amherst, MA) — settled their initiative in the historic southeast Minnesota college town after the city fathers expressed a passion for the idea that the arts are central a town's life, economy and well-being, Barnes said.
Winona (population 27,000, on the Mississippi River), has the second largest collection of restored Victorian architecture in Minnesota (second only to St. Paul), two colleges, tourism and outdoor activities, an active business and civic community and plenty of volunteers to help the festival take root, according to the company's website.
The city was eager for something new to be part of riverfront redevelopment in the next few years. In addition to working toward mounting the two Shakespeare plays this season, there are "preliminary thoughts about a permanent home for the festival on the waterfront."
Founding producing artistic directors Barnes and Hauck met in the summer of 2000 when they worked together on a production of Bus Stop at the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, MN. Joined by Wild, the three worked as professionals directing theatre projects for the Guthrie Theatre's new BFA program, in Minneapolis, in 2002, and clicked, sharing artistic, political and world views.
They first discussed creating a theatre while sharing a meal in a restaurant in Minneapolis, April 30, 2002, during a snowstorm. The question was, "What city do we start the theatre in?"
They began floating the idea of a summer Shakespeare festival in Minnesota, a state without a major summer festival, Barnes told Playbill.com. A member of the Winona city planning commission got wind of the notion and word of mouth spread. Soon, the mayor of Winona called the partners and lobbied to make the town, near LaCrosse, WI, the home of GRSF.
In startup conversations, in July 2002, one of the commitments the partners made was to have $1.1 million in unearned income in the bank by the time season No. 1 began. Dreams need practical support, Barnes said.
Paul Barnes has directed 37 productions for 21 theatre companies in 13 states over the past six years. His work has ranged from plays by Shakespeare (Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It, Troilus and Cressida, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry V, Henry IV: Part 1, Henry VIII ) to American standards (All My Sons, The Glass Menagerie, Bus Stop, The Fantasticks), to large scale musicals (Camelot), small scale revues (Forever Plaid, My Way, Woody Guthrie's American Song), and contemporary plays (Copenhagen, Floyd Collins, A Skull in Connemara, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde, The Memory of Water). His work has been seen at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Virginia Stage Company, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, American Players, Skylight Opera, Missouri Repertory, Utah Shakespearean Festival and Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Alec Wild's work as a director and assistant director has been seen at Bailiwick Repertory, The Globe Theaters, Yale Repertory and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. He was founder and artistic director of Folio Theater in Chicago, where he directed Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet and Henry IV: Part 1, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, George F. Walker's Zastrozzi, and the Midwest premiere of Frontiers, by Valery Daemke, Doreen Dunn, Kathleen Gaffney, and Nancy Sellin.
Mark Hauck has had a split career, returning to professional theater five years ago after 10 years as an arts administrator and education consultant. As a set designer he has designed critically acclaimed productions in venues across the region. Recently he has designed for the Great American History Theater, Mixed Blood Theater, Park Square, Eye of the Storm, Latte Da, The Paul Bunyan Playhouse, the Guthrie Theater BFA Conservatory, and the Commonweal Theater. As a graduate student at the University of Minnesota he was awarded the Century Prize for Excellence in Design. He has also directed at Regis University, The Backstage Theater, Colorado Mountain College, and the cabaret stage at the Berkshire Theater Festival, where he completed a directing internship with artistic director Josephine Abady and assistant directed on the BTF mainstage.