Eric Bunge, standing in the white shirt, was one of the founders of Commonweal in Lanesboro.

If you follow theater news from southeastern Minnesota, take note that Eric Bunge has been named managing director of the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona. Bunge co-founded the Commonweal Theatre in nearby Lanesboro in 1988 and was a key leader up until last December, when he left. The extended Bunge family has played a large role in Lanesboro and environs.

Bunge and Commonweal artistic director Hal Cropp have built the theater into one of the major institutions in the town of 800. They opened a new building in 2007. Bunge was also instrumental in the fundraising program, the Ibsen Festival and the Apprentice program at Commonweal.

Moving over to Winona, Bunge takes over from Jeff Stevenson, who recently resigned as general manager at the Shakespeare Festival. Paul Barnes, one of the founders of the Winona event, has known Bunge since 2000, when Barnes directed a show at Commonweal.

"It’s rare to find someone of Eric’s theatre management background and experience outside a major metropolitan area," Barnes said.

The Great River Shakespeare Festival continues this weekend with "King Lear," "A Midsummer’s Night Dream" and "The Fantasticks." The festival is in its 8th year and reported its highest attendance last season.