A Girl-Powered Robyn Hood Opens Youtheatre Season This Weekend
With their 2022-23 season, Fort Wayne Youtheatre is balancing returning favorites, like December’s Frozen, Jr., with compelling and less familiar productions, like March’s Bagdad Zoo. To open their season, they’re bringing a fresh twist to a long-beloved character and setting. With Robyn Hood: Heroine of Sherwood Forest, the tale gets a girl power twist and a very fresh perspective, courtesy of Todd Espeland, executive director of Youtheatre and the writer/director for Robyn Hood.
“We were talking about what our fall show should be because we really have to program for two audiences,” Espeland said. “We have the audience who comes to see the show, and we have elementary to high school age performers who are in the shows. It can be a challenge to find things to meet both of those audiences. I also wanted to put some stage combat into the show, which is often very guy-centric, so we decided to do a woman-centered version of Robin Hood. There’s an argument to be made for a woman Robyn Hood since the guys were off fighting the Crusades. This version gives us a balanced male and female cast, and they can learn active stage combat. Usually the girls are the ones in need of rescuing in these stories so there’s a real educational benefit to girls learning stage combat. Many of the best performers of combat are women.”
Espeland brings his knowledge of both stage combat and masks in performance to Fort Wayne Youtheatre and has already demonstrated the knowledge of combat in performance in Treasure Island, his first production with Youtheatre. His interest really took off after he attended a workshop for the Society of American Fight Directors while still an undergraduate at University of Nevada at Las Vegas. He has found that performers and students of Youtheatre enjoy tackling the challenges of combat for the stage.
“Kids embrace it because they feel like superheroes,” he said. “It’s good for kids who are not necessarily athletic to have a completely different way of performing, and it makes them more marketable. It’s important that we’re not teaching violence or glorifying it. We’re teaching kids that violence has repercussions. And in teaching them stage combat, we can teach them how to do it safely.”
The young performers, who range from 12 to 18 years old, are embracing the changes to the classic story of Robin Hood as much as Espeland does.
“It’s been fun to revisit the story and work with this cast,” he said. “We talk about the changes like the fact that Friar Tuck is being held and is in need of rescue. Usually the girl is the one who needs saving, and we can talk about those kinds of story choices and how arbitrary they are. Then we can change those choices, and this group of girls are really excited and excelling at what they’re doing. They’ve really understood what’s needed in the rehearsal process.”
Robyn Hood: Heroine of Sherwood Forest opens Friday at First Presbyterian Theater. The run begins with a performance on September 30 at 7 p.m. and continues Saturday, October 1 and Sunday, October 2, with shows both days at 2 p.m. There is also a Sensory Friendly Performance on Saturday, October 1 at 4:30 p.m. and a Touch Tour at 4 p.m. School performances have returned to the fold, and free tickets for those are available to some thanks to a donation from the Robert and Kris Jensen Family. For more details about the Monday, October 3 field trip tickets, visit fortwayneyoutheatre.org. To purchase tickets for Robyn Hood, visit artstix.org.