What: “Robin Hood,” family stage drama
Where: Rose Theater, 2001 Farnam St.
When: Friday through Oct. 27. Showtimes: 7 p.m. Fridays; 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets: $18 all seats. Discount vouchers at Hy-Vee supermarkets. Reservations required.
Information: 402-345-4849 or rosetheater.org
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Imagine that the Rose Theater has gone derelict for years. Tattered curtains hang forlornly, and garbage is strewn across the front of the stage. Panhandlers living in the midst of all this decide to put on a show, using found objects as props and costumes.
That creative framing concept for “Robin Hood,” which opens Friday at the Rose, presented special challenges to its director and designers as they created two worlds for audiences: the decaying stage area set in the present, which then transforms into a forest in Medieval England, circa 1192.
For the four vagaband-actors telling the story and playing all the parts, a garbage can lid might become a shield. A shower curtain can be a cape. A bit of discarded rope is a belt. A colander serves as a helmet. A graffiti-filled wall parts to reveal a giant tree.
“It's the natural world emerging from the theater's decay, happening right before the audience's eyes,” said Matthew Gutschick, the Rose's artistic director. “Robin Hood” marks Gutschick's first time directing a show at the Rose.
The idea, he said, should be that there's something magical happening. And heroes are still among us, even if we can't always see or touch them. “Robin Hood” is designed to examine the way the human spirit overcomes severe obstacles, he said.
Costume designer Callyann Casteel said her challenge, besides finding ways to partly costume the actors with found objects, was the need for quick changes. Since only four people play all the parts, they are often reappearing quickly as someone new.
“We tried to keep elements of the present world in the medieval costumes,” she said. “We had to find that fine line between modern and medieval, between theatrical and found objects.”
Scenic designer Jeff Stander researched images of grand old theaters that weren't lucky enough to be refurbished like the Rose — theaters with holes in the ceiling, light splashing in and things growing inside. They became the inspiration for him and lighting designer Craig Moxon.
“Ideally the set would be all found materials,” he said. But he couldn't find enough discarded plywood to board up the entire proscenium, about 30 by 60 feet. “Instead of cropping the playing area, we used the edges to show what happened to the theater, and center stage becomes the main playing area.”
Stander, scenic designer for Doane College in Crete, Neb., said “Robin Hood” tells a story about poverty that is sometimes overlooked by parents. “That makes it unique,” he said.
Audience members are encouraged to bring canned-food donations for the Open Door Mission, which roving panhandler-actors will gladly accept.