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GRSF hits the big (computer) screen (07/31/2013)
By Jen Burris

To watch the videos visit www.grsf.org.
The Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) has a strong social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and even Pinterest, but its most popular posts are its Youtube videos. Picture the leading ladies of Shakespeare’s plays sitting around a table cattily fighting with one another, similar to the reality show “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” Or instead of a video about AA, one about SA, or Shakespeare Anonymous. Those are just a couple of the humorous videos GRSF has created in recent years.

Christopher Gerson, a company member who has been with GRSF since the first season, brought an abundance of video experience to the festival. Gerson worked for the Sundance Film Festival for many years, posting two festival videos daily. When the GRSF company was in its early years, Gerson would make a year-end video as a send-off to cast and crew. “I wanted to do something for the public, but the technology wasn’t quite there at the beginning,” Gerson explained. Eventually, GRSF was able to add a video intern to the company, allowing them to post to the web, and began weekly video updates two years ago. The videos include a large array of subjects, from rehearsal fight scenes to a hilarious retelling of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by the daughters of GRSF Artistic Director Doug Scholz-Carlson.

Gerson believes that the formal speech we associate with Shakespeare really infuses humor into the videos. Although company is very serious about the language, the text, and the technical aspects of the productions, the combination creates satirical videos entertaining not only the company, but now an Internet audience. “We take our work very seriously, but not ourselves,” Gerson said with a chuckle. The company does not point fingers at anyone else, or draw a laugh at other people’s expense. “There’s a big difference between making fun of ourselves and making fun of others,” Gerson noted.

The videos quickly became widely popular. Gerson pointed out how quickly the videos became an integral part of the festival. A few of the videos have over 30,000 Internet views and have reached viewers across the globe. The Royal Shakespeare Company in London even reposted them on social networking sites. “When we get feedback, we are very charmed,” Gerson added.

Even though the videos generally clock in at under 10 minutes, Gerson explained how much time the process takes. There is the script, the costumes, the props, not to mention special effects and editing. “Very often it takes all week, a couple hours a day to complete the process,” he said. Gerson, who loves the fact that not only is everyone willing to be involved, but they they are excited to be part of the popular videos.

The company hopes to continue to wow audiences with new videos in upcoming years. Future videos may be on a season theme, or perhaps based on a reality show, Gerson noted.

“There are very exciting things on the front for next year.”

To view the GRSF videos, go to GRSF.org. The festival continues through August 4, when the last performance of "Twelfth Night" will be staged at 1:00 p.m. at the Performing Arts Center on the Winona State University campus.



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