Shakespeare for Young Actors students perform “Twelfth Night” in the 2018 Young Artists Showcase.
Photo by Sydney Swanson.  

Great River Shakespeare Festival opens registration for summer youth classes


Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) has now opened registration for all summer classes for kids ages four and up through high school seniors. The classes vary in length and focus, and are taught by resident artists and company members during the summer on the campus of Winona State University.

GRSF provides extensive formal training programs for a wide variety of ages. Its focus is not only on theater production but on the development of human character. The festival’s website says, “We believe that part of becoming a great artist is becoming a great person. We are a company of artists, and we are part of a community. We value respect, empathy, and compassion every bit as much as we value excellence, authenticity, and innovation.” All of GRSF’s education programs are supported by a grant from the Elizabeth Callender King Foundation.

This summer, the festival will offer a variety of educational programs for area youth.

Will’s Creative Drama is a half-day, week-long class aimed at young kids ages four through second grade. Children will have a blast playing theater games to learn collaborative performance skills and group dynamics. They will explore ways to use their voices and bodies as tools for storytelling, working with simple stories and poetry. Students will also have a basic introduction to Shakespeare through simple scenes and sample performance videos. 

Also available for grade-school students is Will’s Power Players for third through sixth graders. Students will explore voice, movement, and imagination, in addition to monologue and scene work while practicing listening and speaking skills and building confidence — all essential acting traits. This fun, active program will culminate in an informal performance by all participants.

For middle- and high-school students, GRSF has three different programs: Shakespeare for Young Actors, Shakespeare for Young Designers, and Shakespeare for Young Filmmakers. These programs are for students to grow as young artists and learn new skills while engaging with professional company members. 

Acting students learn to approach Shakespeare’s text the same way GRSF’s professional actors do: applying principles of scansion, acting technique, and text analysis. Design students work alongside professionals to develop their own approach to sets, costumes, and lighting. Film students will take part in the creation of a fully-produced short film, acting as a director, camera operator, sound/lighting technicians, and other on-set duties. On July 26, the community attends an evening of film premieres, design presentations, and a performance of “As You Like It” – all created by students in the GRSF programs.

To learn more or register a child for these classes, visit or email GRSF’s Director of Summer Education Programs Jenn Oswald at

Great River Shakespeare Festival is a nonprofit, professional Equity theater company in Winona dedicated to dynamic productions of Shakespeare’s plays, extensive education and community outreach programs, and comprehensive theater training. Its production season has become a staple in the Winona arts scene since its inception 17 years ago. GRSF’s 17th season will feature “The Tempest,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Great Expectations,” and “Every Brilliant Thing.”


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