Paul Barnes


“There are an infinite number of pleasures to behold in Winona, from the collection of restored Victorian architecture to the sheer beauty of the Bluffs. But one of the most rewarding aspects of any ideal day spent in Winona is getting to know the people who call the city home. I’ve met some of the most fascinating, passionate, and accomplished people with whom it’s been my pleasure and privilege to become acquainted in this peripatetic life I lead.”


8 am – 10 am: My ideal day in Winona would begin as many of my days there do, with a morning walk around the Lake. It’s beautiful at any time of the year, but especially so when I happen to be in town, which is late Spring through mid-summer. Great thought time, and as with so much in and about Winona, breathtaking physical beauty. Plus, given the number of trees and benches and mile markers that have been named for various Winonans and companies based in Winona, I feel I always learn something about the town that’s become my summer home.

10 am – 12 pm: Time at or on the Mississippi River, getting out in a Wenonah kayak or canoe — or a boat of any kind, really — and feeling the transformative power of the Mississippi surge throughout my physical and spiritual being is not to be missed.

12 pm – 2 pm: There are several good coffeehouses I’ve come to enjoy: Blooming Grounds, the Blue Heron, Mugby Junction, to name but a few. I love the laid-back, down-home charm of Bub’s, (especially on Tuesdays, when they offer discounts on burgers and other fare).

2 pm – 6 pm: Ending the afternoon on the Green at Winona State University to hear a free concert before one of the Great River Shakespeare Festival‘s performances (and then attending that night’s performance) is yet another wonderful way in which to commune — with the beautiful, peaceful landscaping of the WSU campus, with the friends from the community who attend the concerts and the plays, and with the always entertaining, often thought-provoking work of the Festival and William Shakespeare.

6 pm onwards: A drink at the Legion after rehearsal or a performance is a great capper to a wonderful Winona day. Great place for the GRSF company to let off a little steam, but also to meet, mix, and mingle with locals who either know the Festival, are somewhat askance of who we are and what we do, or are eager to know more once they become acquainted with company members.

Also, if I can slip away in the early evening, taking a sunset walk at the monastery above Saint Mary’s — the St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary — is one of the most peaceful and inspiring things I have discovered and consistently try to do whenever I’m in Winona.


Paul Barnes is one of the founding Producing Directors of Winona’s Great River Shakespeare Festival, and its Artistic Director from 2006 – 2013. An award-winning free-lance director who lives in Ashland, Oregon but considers Winona his second home, Mr. Barnes directs regularly at regional theatres, festivals, and actor training programs across the country. His work has been seen by audiences in New York City, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Denver, Houston, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Little Rock, Montgomery, Lanesboro, and Spring Green, and spans productions of Shakespeare, musicals, British and American classics, and new plays.

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