From the age-old ballads to modern-day video games, swashbuckling Robin Hood, the benevolent outlaw, continues to captivate audiences young and old. Beginning on Wednesday, May 6, NOLA Project’s “Robin Hood: Thief, Brigand” will bring a new spin to the tale of this hero and his band of Merry Men.
Building on the success of last year’s “Alice in Wonderland,” the innovative theater company returns to City Park to transform the Pine Grove section of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden into Sherwood Forest.
There, amid the tall pines and live oaks, the actors will premiere an original work by playwright Andrew Vaught that takes a fresh look at this classic legend.
“Our ‘Robin Hood’ has a dark side,” NOLA Project spokesman Richard Alexander Pomes said. “He’s an anti-hero and more of a renegade than the straight-up Disney hero.”
The production, directed by company member Beau Bratcher, features two NOLA Project company members in lead roles: James Bartell takes on the role as the charismatic Robin Hood, and Alex Martinez Wallace, who recently won a Big Easy Entertainment Award for his portrayal of McMurphy in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” plays the villainous King John.
Other cast members include Alec Barnes, Jake Bartush, Trina Beck, Natalie Boyd, Becca Chapman, Keith Claverie, Joel Derby, Jared Gore, Cavan Hallman, Levi Hood, Kaitlyn McQuin, Price Provenzano, Nick Stephens and Michael P. Sullivan. It’s a mixture of company players and other New Orleans actors.
“I’ve been so impressed with the NOLA Project’s evolution over the last 10 years,” veteran actress Trina Beck said. “Doing a show in the Sculpture Garden has been on my actor wish list for years now. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to join the cast as Eleanor of Aquitaine.”
Even though the cast and crew have struggled through days of rainfall during much of its rehearsal period, director Bratcher remains excited about the play.
“It is an absolute treat for all of us to work in this wonderful and beautiful garden,” he said.
He’s also enjoyed having the opportunity to work with an original script and being able to have the playwright involved and engaged in the entire process.
“It gives the play a chance to evolve, and that is always exciting,” Bratcher said. “Andy has really opened up the idea of who Robin can be, and this Robin is much more human. It’s easy to make Robin a larger-than-life hero, but in this version, we watch Robin’s journey as he becomes that hero.”
This retelling of the myth finds Robin and his band of Merry Men accidentally intercepting a chest full of 100,000 gold coins on its way to France. Robin redistributes this wealth to the land’s poorest citizens.
But when King John finds out about this grand philanthropic gesture, he vows to destroy Robin. Along the way, the audience can expect to have a lot of fun and witness plenty of action.
“I like sword fights, villains who are not afraid to be villains and heroes who have something wrong with them,” Vaught said.
The production will occur all around the audience, Pomes said. He added that the play has something for everyone and encouraged children to attend.
The company seats the audience on a first-come basis, so arrive early.
Something happens when a theater company presents a play outdoors, away from four walls, a roof and a proscenium arch.
And if it rains, everyone who bought a ticket gets to pick another night to come.
“Robin Hood: Thief, Brigand” will be staged through May 24. Tickets are $20; bring chairs or blankets. For information, call (504) 302-9117 or visit www.nolaproject.com.