In the Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Sir John Falstaff is the quintessential Shakespearean comedic character. Funny and fat, Falstaff is celebrated for his amusing personality and butterball appearance, and although it may come as a surprise for some, the actor who portrays him, Jonathan Gillard Daly, is wearing a fat suit and is actually one of the most in-shape actors in the festival.
“[Daly] is actually quite fit,” noted Doug Scholz-Carlson, education director at GRSF. “He’s the longest-standing runner in the company, he sort of set the bar. In the beginning, he was the only [GRSF company member] you would see running around the lake, but now you see a lot.”
GRSF will host its first annual Will Run 5k on Sunday, July 20, starting at 8 a.m. at the Visitors’ Center. The course will take place entirely on the bike path around the shady side of Lake Winona and end at the Band Shell, where food and a special “ask the company” event will follow. Organizers also said there will be continuous music throughout the event. “Will [Kitchen, GRSF director of development,] Lee [Gundersheimer, GRSF managing director,] and I met with Live Well Winona months ago, and just talked about doing something athletic with the community, because the entire Shakespeare company is a very athletic group,” explained Dee Cipov, member of the Friends of Will Steering Committee. “[The 5k is a great way] to support GRSF, because we are very fortunate to have this in our community.”
Along with the chance to see some GRSF crew members and actors out of costume, each participant will take home a Will Run 5k T-shirt. There will also be prizes for various age groups, as well as a coveted overall grand prize. “The overall winner award is two season tickets to GRSF,” Cipov said. “Although there will only be two weeks left of the festival, people will still have plenty of time to see all three plays. We will also have prizes for the five different age categories, with the first place winners receiving a water bottle, and the second and third place winners receiving [other GRSF merchandise].”
Although the Will Run 5k is billed as a run, Cipov said both walkers and runners are encouraged to come out and participate, as well as competitive runners and families looking for an active event that everyone can enjoy. “It’s a walk-run,” she explained. “A lot of people are walk-runners. It doesn’t make a difference, we just thought it would be a fun thing to do.”
Scholz-Carlson, who took up running while working at GRSF years ago and has now run the Twin Cities Marathon, agreed, and said that he and his daughters will be participating in the Will Run 5k because of the race’s length, which is a little over three miles. “That’s the great thing about the 5k — it’s such a doable distance,” he said. “You can essentially go from zero to a 5k [in a few weeks].”
While the Will Run 5k is a great way to involve additional community members with GRSF, it is also somewhat of an homage to the long-standing tradition of athleticism and physicality in Shakespeare’s plays, for both the actors and the behind-the-scenes crew. “It’s very, very physical,” Scholz-Carlson explained of the productions. For the actors, the combat scenes require athletic prowess to achieve a believable portrayal of the action, while the dialogue itself also requires physical preparation. “Talking energetically is physically taxing,” said Scholz-Carlson, who has performed “Hamlet” as the title character. He remembered the tradition of eating a potato during a scene in which the actor portraying Hamlet has a small break. “Hamlet goes to England, and it has been known that you eat a potato because it’s so exhausting!”
For crew members, moving heavy props on and off stage during, before and after shows requires strength and the ability to move quickly. “They have to come in and move the set around within an hour [between productions],” Scholz-Carlson said. “There’s an awful lot of physical work that goes into all aspects of theater.”
Will Run participants may pre-register for $20 per person until July 6 by visiting http://grsf.org/will-run-2014/ and filling out the registration form. Race day registration will be $25 per person and will be at the Band Shell beginning at 7:30 a.m. on July 20.