2014-07-13 / Dining & Entertainment

‘Robin Hood’ to be presented at Lebowsky

Robin Hood (Kellan Aldrich) and Marian Harper (Michelle Shattuck) share a tender moment in Sherwood Forrest. (Courtesy Photo) Robin Hood (Kellan Aldrich) and Marian Harper (Michelle Shattuck) share a tender moment in Sherwood Forrest. (Courtesy Photo) OWOSSO – Chesaning High School graduate Kellen Aldrich will play the title role in Owosso Community Players’ production of “Robin Hood,” opening July 18 at the Lebowsky Center for two weekends. Directed by visiting Yale graduate Spencer Klavan, this version of the popular folktale features a cast of 27 in a humorous retelling of the tale.

“Larry Blamire [the playwright] synthesizes centuries of age-old legends into one rip-roaring adventure,” wrote Klavan , who is part of the Cook Family Foundation’s Owosso Fellows Program, which brings college students and recent graduates into community organizations for the summer. “The fellowship placement at OCP seemed like a perfect fit,” Klavan said, having acted in and directed productions at Yale.

The Robin Hood story is familiar, yet there have been numerous retellings over its long history, each with a particular take on the legend, according to Klavan. He wrote: “when the self-obsessed King John (Miles Hayes) taxes the Saxon peasantry to within an inch of their lives to fuel his irresponsible foreign policy, the dashing and rakish Robin Hood (Kellan Aldrich) mounts a revolution to lower taxes and return justice to Nottinghamshire.”

Robin is opposed by the scheming sheriff (Seth Barnes) and aided by his stalwart love interest and lady-in-waiting, Marian Harper (Michelle Shattuck), as well as a band of ragtag outlaws and outcasts (Kyle Goodwin, Madaline Harkema, Zane Jordan, Michael McClung, Sky Poage, and Hadden Wisenbaugh). The rest of the cast includes Haley and Hannah Clark, Noah Clayton, Beth Fischer, Hailea Fraidenburg, Collin Frederick, Nicholas Frederick, Paige King, Kyle Juszkiewicz, Cory LaPeen, Thomas Laurin, Jessica McClung, Josie Norris, Patrick Vreibel, Sam Wittum, and Marykate Wright.

The humorous script also calls for fastpaced action and combat, Klavan said. Chesaning Association of Performing Arts (CAPA) director Jason Woodworth-Hou is serving as a consultant on the show. As a certified “fight director,” he earned his “actor combatant” certification in broadsword, quarterstaff, rapier and dagger, and later studied combat at the Chicago College of Performing arts as part of his master’s degree in directing.

According to Woodworth-Hou, a fight sequence is like its own little play in one minute or less with an introduction, a complication, and a resolution. Over the past decade, he has directed/choreographed a number of combat scenes in “Romeo and Juliet”, “Macbeth,” “A Few Good Men,” and more.

“Teenage boys who grew up watching Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Kung Fu movies seem to be attracted to stage combat and I have used it to my advantage several times to build up an arsenal of male actors at our high school program,” Woodworth-Hou said.

Aldrich (Robin Hood) worked with CAPA on Macbeth. “Kellan is definitely one of the most accomplished stage combat students I have had,” said Woodworth-Hou.

“When I heard about this show I was excited to get back to stage combat,” Aldrich said. “And I like that this story figuratively addresses the inequality in today’s society and is about a group of people who are willing to fight for what is right.”

As a consultant, Woodworth-Hou taught cast members the basic moves, positions, and footwork, as well as the safety procedures. “All actors must feel 100 percent confident and secure. The choreographer must build in safety checks to every move on stage,” he said.

Klavan, whose acting training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts included stage combat, is doing his own choreography for Robin Hood, under Woodworth-Hou’s guidance.

“Spencer is like a kid in a candy store when it comes to combat,” Woodworth-Hou said. “He bubbles with excitement when he discovers a new move or way to resolve a particular phrase in combat. I am looking forward to seeing what he is going to do with this cast.”

In addition to his combat skills, Klavan is well versed in exercises that help actors dig deep into their characters. “Spencer asks his actors to think not just of our character in the moment, but of all that our character has been through previously,” said Seth Barnes, who portrays the famed sheriff. “I find the exercises very intense and helpful,” Barnes said.

Klavan explained that he learned the methods he uses in working with actors from a variety of different sources and mentors, on both sides of the production process.

“Everything you act in, everything you direct, you pick up some new tool,” he reflected. “The goal is always to find some point of true connection between yourself and the character – a way of moving, a past experience, a train of thought – anything that resonates with you and lets you understand this imaginary person’s internal experience. I’m always collecting exercises and tricks that have helped me to do that, because it’s the best way – maybe the only way – to shape a compelling, fully fleshed-out human character onstage.”

Performances will be July 18, 19, 25, 26 at 8 p.m., and July 20 and 27 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for 18 and under. Call the box office (723-4003) or go to owossoplayers.com for online purchasing.

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