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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
‘this scepter’d isle...this other Eden’ (07/16/2008)
By John Edstrom
Monday evening at the home of Bob and Marlene Kohner, a gathering of friends, supporters, and company members of the Great River Shakespeare Festival were treated to some upbeat news by Festival Founding Director Paul Barnes. He reminded us that this is the fifth season for GRSF, which is sort of a watershed year for festivals like it. It is a hurdle that those doomed to failure will not clear. Those still in existence may be considered surviving and thriving. The big majority of theater festivals expire, in fact, by the third year.

Another sign that GRSF is gathering momentum is the amount of press it is garnering in the great world beyond Winona. This year it has been written up in The Milwaukee Journal, The Wisconsin Journal, Rochester Post-Bulletin, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis City Pages, National Geographic Travel, and Explore Minnesota. GRSF is on the map, and definitely on the horizon of those inclined to travel to take in Cultural Events.

If Winonans and the broader world continue to support the Great River Shakespeare Festival, it will continue to be here. At this point in the address, Barnes encouraged all present to give freely. A $50,000 dollar for dollar challenge grant has been issued, expiring August 31, so now would be a good time for anyone else so inclined to pitch in. One can get details at grsf.org, or simply send a check to GRSF, 79 E. 3rd Street, Winona, MN 55987. And by all means, if you haven't yet, attend both The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice before the season winds down July 27. This is brilliant theater which would sparkle anywhere in the world, if you believe me.

Meanwhile, back at the Beethoven Festival, violinist Joshua Bell and piano accompanist Frederic Chiu gave a concert at WSU's Somsen Hall last Friday which was phenomenal by any measure. Bell and Chiu, world-class musicians just returned from a South American tour, gave a performance anchored, (in my opinion), by Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata for violin, and ranging from a Giuseppe Tartini sonata from the 18th century to the Russian Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Sonata No.1 in F minor which premiered in 1946, much to the displeasure of Joe Stalin and his pack of retrograde commies. (Actually, I didn't much care for it either.)

The level of virtuosity on display by Bell and Chiu was astonishing, obvious to the least sophisticated observer. Winonans are richly privileged to have the opportunity to witness such genius in action here in Winona and should be suitably grateful to Hugh and Vera Miller for making it possible.

Thanks, then, to our twin festivals for making us, at least for the midsummer, "this royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle...This other Eden, demi-paradise...This precious stone set in the silver sea,...This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this Winona.,"* if that's not laying it on too thick.


*With apologies to William Shakespeare, Richard II, II,i,40 


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