Tonight, Raleigh Little Theatre will open its 2003-2004 season with the RLT Teens on Stage production of Robin Hood, written around 1991 by Larry Blamire and directed for RLT by the theater's youth education director, Carmen-maria Mandley, on RLT's Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage in Raleigh, North Carolina. After four-plus weeks of preparation, the Teens on Stage summer training program's 31 actors and six technical people will finally have their moment in the spotlight.
"This is the first time in a long time that the Teens on Stage production is on the main stage," says RLT managing director Cate Foltin in an interview with Robert's Reviews. "Normally, it's in the Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre."
Foltin says, "The Teens on Stage program is a five-week conservatory program. The kids come from nine to five Monday through Friday for five straight weeks. [The program] culminates in a production.... The kids built the set, helped with the costumes, did all the hanging of the lights, and are actually running the show."
Indeed, four graduates of the Teens on Stage program have returned to help. They are stage manager Pamela Reichen, assistant directors Linnea Emigh and Jes Gephart, and fight captain Kat Randle.
"Now in its 15th year, Teens on Stage takes 35 students from across the Triangle on a journey of voice, body, and imagination in a conservatory setting," Foltin told RLTvolunteers.org recently. "The teenagers spend their mornings in classes that include voice, movement, improvisation, and stage combat. During the afternoons performance candidates rehearse for Robin Hood with Carmen Mandley, while technical candidates work on scenery, lighting, costumes and/or properties with the technical staff. This summer' s program runs June 23-July 27."
Foltin tells Robert's Reviews Larry Blamire's Robin Hood "follows the traditional story of Robin Hood [Simon McGorman], except this one is a high-camp comedy version designed for teen actors. There's a lot of sword fighting and Maid Marion [Anna Gettles] turns out to be a better fencer than Robin Hood. That's one of the twists in the show."
Other key cast members include Steve Ackerman (Will Scarlet), Joe Bailey (The Sheriff), Tom Martin (King John), Delia Parks (Little John), Diana Pozo (Ellen Deirwold), and Stephanie Rahl (Friar Tuck).
Director Carmen-maria Mandley's production team for Robin Hood includes technical director and scenic designer John Andrews, costumer Sue Brace, lighting designer Andy Parks, and fight choreographer Jess Pillmore.
The Teens on Stage come to Raleigh Little Theatre from Apex, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Garner, Kernersville, and Raleigh.
The legend of Robin Hood (a.k.a. Robin of Loxley), promulgated in a series of English ballads dating back to the 14th century, claims that he was a charismatic outlaw — perhaps, of noble birth — who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. From their secret hideout deep in the heart of Sherwood Forest, Robin and his band of Merry Men sallied forth poach the king's deer to feed the starving masses. They terrorized the lecherous and greedy Sheriff of Nottingham and other corrupt English nobles and churchmen.
But, unfortunately, the legend of Robin Hood is just that, a legend. There is no historical figure who can claim credit for all of Robin Hood's deeds of daring.
Actor/director/playwright and screenwriter Larry Blamire's cheeky approach to retelling the legend of this medieval folk hero has drawn praise from a number of sources.
"Blamire has synthesized the conflicting legends and ballads about the outlaw folk hero and created a hysterical, sprawling, action-packed drama," according to Robin Hood's publisher, Baker's Plays. "Besides ably retelling the legend, he has created roles that challenge and reinvent the myth. Includes a wise-cracking, superior swords person in Marion, and a Robin who only by chance finds himself a hero. But true to the legend, of course, all ends well: The Sheriff's sleazy scheme to wed and bed young Ellen fizzles, King John's vicious taxes are rescinded, the Sherwood Foresters are finally legitimized, and a justice descends on England's green and pleasant land."
4-WALL.COM adds, "Larry Blamire... indulges in and makes fun of the stilted dialogue found in tiresome historical novels and adventure films."
RLT's Cate Foltin says, "I've just been watching the [Teens on Stage] kids rehearse for the last four-and-a-half weeks. They're incredibly talented and doing a lot of work. They have to learn to fight with broad swords and rapiers. They have to learn how to do that safely.
"Just the physical stamina involved is amazing," claims Foltin. "These are all highly talented individuals who have really put their heart and soul into this production and are looking forward to having an audience so bad."
Raleigh Little Theatre presents Robin Hood Friday, July 18, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, July 19-20, at 2 p.m.; Wednesday-Thursday, July 23-24, at 10 a.m.; Friday, July 25, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday-Sunday, July 26-27, at 2 p.m. on RLT's Cantey V. Sutton Main Stage, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. (NOTE 1: RLT will provide assistive listening devices for all performances.. NOTE 2: RLT will provide sign-language interpretation at the July 19 matinee.) $11 ($7 students). 919/821-3111 or http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/tickets.htm. RLT Production: http://www.raleighlittletheatre.org/robin.htm [inactive 6/04] . The Play: http://bakersplays.net/robinhood.html [inactive 1/04]. World Wide Robin Hood Society: http://www.robinhood.to/ [inactive 1/04].