If laughter is good for the soul, then after last night I’m pretty well cured of anything that ails me. I finally got my act together and got to the theater to see Twelfth Night done by the Great River Shakespeare Festival, and I don’t care who you are — that play was funny. Stick around – I’m going to give you a chance to see it for yourself.
And I really mean I don’t care who you are. I’ve heard loads of people over the years say, when asked if they’ve seen one of the GRSF plays, say, “Uh no thanks. Not into that theater thing.” And well guess what? You’re wrong. I can pretty well imagine what people who say that envision when they hear “Shakespeare play” – a bunch of high-falutin people nodding appreciatively to the iambic pentameter verse blibbed out indecipherably from a stage full of serious thespians, while they sit there with a dumb stare on their face wondering what the hell is going on.
I may or may not have thought that at one point myself. And I’m not going to lie – for each play I’ve gone to see, it takes me about 20 minutes to sink into the unusual word use and cadence of speech, and to get my arms around the story. But the great minds at GRSF know this is generally true about everyone in their audience, and they do a pretty good job grabbing you by the hand and pulling you into the production.
And if you only see one production this year, or in your life, you should probably make it Twelfth Night. I haven’t seen King Henry V, also being performed by GRSF this year, though I heard it was very good. But Twelfth Night was like a joy ride – so funny that at points the audience actually could not stop laughing, and actors had to hold their line for an extra beat or two because the uproar would have drowned them out. I’m not talking about chuckle-funny; I’m talking about throw your head back and laugh out loud funny. And whether you like flannel or silk, or Courvoisier or Bud Lite, who doesn’t love to laugh like that? In fact, when William Shakespeare wrote his plays, he designed them for ordinary folks, not dignitaries and heads of state, and he had a pretty irreverent sense of humor. GRSF’s rendition of Twelfth Night would have made Will proud.
This is, of course, because of the actors who have affectionately made this festival their summer home. There is genius among us, folks, and I’m not kidding. Now it’s no secret that I’m a bit of a groupie who is rumored to be stalking Christopher Gerson, one of the festival’s cornerstone actors, but that’s not why I’m saying this. And for the record, I’d just like to say that it was NOT me sitting outside your apartment with binoculars Thursday, Chris, and I did not send you all those cookies, even though they look suspiciously like my grandmother’s recipe. I hope you liked them though – I mean if someone did send you cookies.
Anyway – after Twelfth Night, I’ve moved on. Chris was fabulous. Better than fabulous – and I cherished the droplets of his sweat and spit that flew on me as I gazed up from the second row. In fact, I’m probably not going to wash my clothes. But my new love after the play is Tarah Flanagan, who happens to be Chris Gerson’s wife. Holy cats, man, I can see why you married her. She’s adorable. But her portrayal of Viola was just plain brilliant. She was funny and moving and engaging and her timing was impeccable…sigh. Just – wow. What must it be like to be married to that kind of greatness? (I’m pretty sure I just started a fight in their house. LOL)
In all seriousness, there was a lot of genius on that stage and I’m madly in love with all of them. Chris Mixon, Michael Fitzpatrick, Brian White, Jonathan Gillard Daly, Stephanie Lambourn, Doug Scholz-Carlson, and my good friend Corey Allen, the designers and directors and on and on – for a few weeks each summer, they splash our town with the kind of talent that could work anywhere, yet they come here. We are so, so lucky, Winona – and if you check out publications in Milwaukee or Minneapolis or Madison you’ll see: The world is jealous of us and our festival.
So go. You’ll thank me. But you better do it now because you only have a week left. I’ve got two tickets to give away – I’m going to draw a name from the comments at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning – you will need to leave your name and tell me: IF you were going to be a GRSF actor groupie, which one would you follow around and why? Don’t know any of the actors? No problem, here is the playbill: grsf.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Playbill-2013-web.pdf
You can only enter once, but do us all a favor and share this blog with your friends – maybe one will take you if they win. But even if they don’t win (or take you), if they go, they’ll thank you for the best laugh they’ve had in a long time.