From: Dave and Kathy Christenson
We have read other letters describing the Great River Shakespeare Festival’s wonderful productions, excellent acting, and community-wide events. Those are the things that initially brought us to the Festival. In addition, our personal involvement has grown as we came to realize that this Festival has something particularly unique: the opportunity to interact with and get to know the individual people within the Company personally.
There are approximately 100 people - technicians, designers, directors, musicians, educators, actors, costumers, apprentices and interns in the GRSF Company this year, and they have come to Winona from all over the U.S. to spend 3 months - a quarter of the year - in Winona. Many of them consider Winona their second home. We have encountered them bicycling to and from garage sales, the farmers’ market, at the Co-op and coffee shops, local grocery and retail stores, and have met them learning their lines and having picnics in the parks. Several of the Company members have made Winona their permanent home. When we’ve greeted them, they are eager to talk and answer questions - about the plays or about anything that comes up in conversation. We would encourage everyone to look for people wearing the GRSF lanyard around their necks and start a conversation - you may find some common and unexpected interests.
Part of the Festival’s mission has always been to connect with the community in a variety of ways - not only from the stage. One of the unique ways this Company has made it possible for us to meet one another offstage is to hold “Festival Mornings” on Saturdays during the run of the plays at a local coffee house. These are free, one-hour discussions with members of the cast and crew who gather in an informal setting to answer any questions that the audience may have. It’s a great opportunity to talk with Company members, often hearing their thoughts about the plays and their feelings about being in Winona.
Seeing Winona through their “new eyes” reminds us of the things about Winona we may overlook: they continually praise the city for its beauty, and its people for their warmth and friendliness. This positive energy has created ambassadors for Winona not only during the summer months, when GRSF is in town, but year ‘round, wherever their work may take them. We have made lasting friendships with some of the most creative and talented people we have ever met.
Because sustaining the Festival requires more than the money from ticket sales alone, and because we want the Festival to continue to reside in Winona for many years to come, we have made a commitment to the GRSF “Setting the Stage” campaign, and we urge you to do the same. Thank you.