Moffat County theater program on target to please crowds with comic version of ‘Robin Hood’
When audiences hear the name of folklore hero Robin Hood, a handful of things instantly come to mind: the color green, archery and the motto “steal from the rich and give to the poor.”
But if the players of the Moffat County High School drama program do their jobs this week, another trait will be inseparable in the minds of local spectators: hilarity.
The MCHS theater troupe presents “The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood” with nightly shows Thursday, April 7, through Saturday, April 9, plus a weekend matinee.
Admission is $7 with performances at 6:30 p.m. each evening, as well as one at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, all at the MCHS auditorium.
The period piece written by Mary Lynn Dobson tells the familiar story of the most famous arrow-slinger of all time, who fights tyranny and supports the downtrodden in medieval England. While historians have debated for centuries whether or not the legend is based on a real figure, Robin has taken all forms in entertainment, including versions that inspire laughs more than anything.
It was that element that drew director Grace Alberico to this rendition.
“We got a really positive response with our last comedy, ‘Saving the Greeks,’ last year. The community really enjoyed the escapism of that and I knew this show had very similar humor and a flexible cast,” she said. “It was a perfect fit for us, for the age group. We like to do shows where the whole community can come. It is a show children will enjoy, and adults will get something else out of it. The name has the appeal to it because it’s been done so many times, but this is a slightly different way.”
Silly and anachronistic moments abound with Robin and his Merry Men wielding wooden spoons as their main weaponry and characters referencing modern foodstuffs such as Twinkies and Girl Scout cookies.
However, the backbone of the original tale still remains, and MCHS senior Nevaeh Allen took to heart the goodness inherent in the eponymous character that she plays.
“I’ve always really loved Robin Hood’s story,” she said. “Charity is a really big part of my family, so the fact that I get to play a character that’s focused on giving to other people, that’s just part of my soul.”
With famous screen Robin Hoods ranging from Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn to Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe — but remember that Cary Elwes boasted the best English accent in the spoof “Men in Tights”— Allen said she takes more inspiration from the Disney animated fox who took up residence in Sherwood Forest.
“I’m probably more like the cartoon one — fun, flamboyant, all over the place — but my Merry Men keep me straight,” she said. “I like the spin the story puts on the original tale of Robin Hood, since the characters wind up doing something you wouldn’t expect them to do.”
A soccer injury involving her ACL, MCL and meniscus requires Allen to wear a knee brace and limits her stage movement, though she’s gotten accustomed to working with her character’s famous equipment.
“We had to make a bow out of PVC pipe and rope. You can’t pull it back too far — you have to be really careful shooting it. It’s hard because the arrows are actually too short for the bow, but with practice you can really make it fly,” she said. “I just shoot it into the wings. Everyone knows to watch out.”
Finding the character
For many in the cast and crew, this is only the latest in a long list of Moffat County theater projects, yet Alberico has seen plenty of newer faces join the process.
“We have some new people joining us, and we always seem to have one senior who joins for their very last show and wishes they had done it before,” she said. “We also have some who have done it every single time we’ve put on a show, some seniors in their eighth or ninth show here, which is impressive. This will be the last time for the audience to see a lot of them perform on our stage.”
In the last several years, senior Maria Sanchez Silva has acted as the title role in the “The Giver” and more recently as Cogsworth in the fall musical “Beauty and the Beast.”
This time around, she plays the Town’s Girl, who serves as a narrator and commentator for the action, setting up segues and flashbacks, often without other characters’ permission.
“In other depictions of the play, she’s not really straightforward, but the way I read the character she’s more sassy and confident. I’m on stage for a good majority of the show, so I try to make things fun and enthusiastic,” she said.
Sanchez Silva’s stage apparel is a flashy red hat and multi-colored vest, one of many costumes that evokes the time period with some extra flair.
“I think the costumes for everyone really make up a part of their character and who they are. Everyone has such a unique costume choice, and it really brings a lot to the show,” she said.
Fellow senior Jessica Womble portrays Robin’s love interest, Maid Marian, who’s more outspoken than the simpering noblewoman of yesteryear.
“She’s mostly very dramatic. She’s referenced as a damsel in distress, but more distress as in just upset than being in trouble,” Womble said. “She’s very sassy and over-the-top, very big. This character has been one of the bigger, dramatic roles, and it’s really helped me expand my acting skills.”
Junior Arianna Crain portrays Allan Adale, one of Robin’s closest confidantes in most versions of the story, in this instance, providing plenty of gags in a tote bag that remind the viewers, yes, this is a comedy.
“He’s one of the right-hand men of Robin Hood and always has his bow and all the things for him in his bag,” she said. “I have a lot of props: dice, a spoon, a ball, some cards, a Slinky and a kazoo.”
Crain noted she’s enjoyed the group dynamic more than acting solo.
“I like the social aspect and being on stage with everyone as a different character,” she said.
Staying on track
While the actors tend to get most of the attention, the show would be nowhere without the people behind the scenes.
Freshman Tabbi Mogus said she wanted to get involved with theater but was reluctant to be on stage.
“It always interested me doing the sets and stuff. I don’t think I could memorize a lot of lines, I think I’d forget them,” she said.
Mogus serves as the crew leader for the production, which involves the handling of sets and props during transitions. While the tree stump that serves as a seat for Robin and other characters has not been her favorite set piece, she takes pride in how the forest backdrop looks.
“I liked painting the sets and knowing what they’d look like before anybody else,” Mogus said. I think they took about two weeks to finish.”
Those details haven’t been lost on the rest of the group.
“Our set is so simple, but it’s powerful since it adds so much to the story. The crew really did an awesome job with that,” Allen said.
Junior Paityn Cox serves as the director’s assistant, a function that involves backing up Alberico however she needs.
“It’s something I enjoy. Whether it’s making copies or running these small errands or helping out the cast, I just find it entertaining,” Cox said. “It’s probably better than stage crew, which I love, but this is a fun job.”
She’s also had to run rehearsals when Alberico has been unavailable and make sure the cast and crew are cooperating. Cox said she’s worked to make clear on an Instagram group chat that she wants to help however she can.
“If somebody needs help, I will help you, whether it’s your lines or in the dressing room or your makeup, I will help you,” she said.
The support of the theater family
With the COVID pandemic abruptly canceling the 2020 spring play and the subsequent fall musical that year, Alberico wasn’t certain last spring if “Saving the Greeks” would come to fruition.
“Last year we didn’t know until the week of the show if we’d be allowed to perform without masks. This year we haven’t had to worry about that at all,” she said. “Last year, I had to plan two separate dates just in case we got postponed. This year feels a lot more normal, so everybody comes to practice in a good mood because it feels like it always used to.”
Sanchez Silva said she has appreciated the camaraderie in what will be her final high school production.
“It’s definitely been an amazing production. The theater family has really gotten close, and I’m thankful for the cast and crew and techs we have this year and all the hard work everyone has put in this year,” she said.
For Womble, the theater program has meant everything in trying times.
She started her freshman year at Moffat County in fall 2018, several months after a car accident that resulted in her left leg being amputated. At the time, she was still relying on a wheelchair to get around but was able to perform in that year’s musical, “Cinderella,” thanks to a rolling throne she used to portray the queen.
Since then, Womble primarily uses crutches and has been a mainstay in the theater productions. She credited Alberico with helping her find ways to enjoy performing even if there are difficulties.
“She has been so good with all the shows making all the accommodations that I need, and then I can push my limits with what I can do, like standing up for most of the show,” Womble said. “For ‘Saving the Greeks,’ I was up for almost the entire show, and that really helped my endurance.”
Womble said she felt especially challenged during the uncertainty of COVID because of the lack of routine that has since returned little by little to help her stay busy on a daily basis.
“I have a Scripture study in the morning before school, and then I don’t get home until 6:30 or 7 at night because of theater, but that’s what I need to thrive. I need a set plan,” she said.
Besides being beneficial to both her physical and mental health, Womble said the experience has been invaluable to keep building relationships with the people she considers her closest friends.
“This theater family has really changed my life in so many ways,” she said. “I honestly don’t know where I’d be without this. It’s been such a big part of my life.”
Director: Grace Alberico
Assistant: Paityn Cox
Stage Manager: Kimber Eike
Crew Leader: Tabbi Mogus
Robin Hood: Nevaeh Allen
Lady Marian: Jessica Womble
Prince John: Isabelle Herod
Sheriff of Nottingham: Austin Seewald
Town’s Girl: Maria Sanchez Silva
Lady in Waiting: Cynae Montoya
Friar Tuck: Hannah Kilpatrick
Beulah: Ashari Jackson
Will Scarlet: Alana McIntyre
Lionel: Devon Malley
Little John: Chad Davis
Donald: Azie Bartholomew
Allan Adale: Arianna Crain
Guards: Chad Davis, Devon Malley
Fawning Ladies: Olivia Cordova, Natalie Womble, Lexi Noland
Stage Crew: Hayle Letsinger, Abbigail Stehle and Gracie Elizondo
Technical Crew: Hailey Collins, Athan Smith, Caroline Schenck, Celeste Valenzuela, Reagan Hafey
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