Behind the Legend: Dramaturgy for "Sherwood"

It takes a lot of work to bring a legend to life! OpenStage’s upcoming production Ken Ludwig’s Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood opens next week. Today we’re taking a look at the work from a very important member of the artistic team...the dramaturg!

What exactly is a Dramaturg? Their role varies from production to production, but the job comes down to three main things:

  1. Research
  2. Materials
  3. Assistance

First off, a lot of a Dramaturg’s work involves research around the text to help the cast, designers, and crew have an in-depth understanding of the play and its history. Once they have this research, a Dramaturg will put together a packet of material that includes necessary context and information about the show. They will often be present through the rehearsal process to offer assistance to the cast and crew: they will answer contextual questions and play an advisory role. Dramaturgy is especially important in a show like Sherwood, as the tale of Robin Hood is based in myth and legend as well as specific historical context.

OpenStage’s Dramaturg: Corinne Weiben

Corinne Weiben recently directed The Mystery of Love and Sex for OpenStage Etcetera and appeared as Dromio of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors, Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible and in the ensemble of Monty Python’s Spamalot. Other recent performances include Fanny in Bas Bleu Readers Theatre’s On the Verge and Clytemnestra in Electra at Front Range Community College. In addition to her Colorado appearances, Corinne has performed with numerous companies in her home state of California, including The Central Coast Shakespeare Festival, San Luis Obispo Repertory Theater and The Great American Melodrama and Vaudeville. Favorite past roles include Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Becky in Becky’s New Car and Agnes in A Bright Room Called Day.

Corinne studies gender, violence, and law in medieval & Renaissance Italy and is currently an Associate Professor of History at the University of Northern Colorado. She is also the creator and host of Enchanted, an episodic podcast on the history of magic, sorcery, and witchcraft. Dr. Wieben holds a B.A. (2001) in Medieval Studies from the University of California, Davis and completed an M.A. (2004) and Ph.D. (2010) in History with a Medieval Studies emphasis at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Here is some of Corinne’s dramaturgical work for Ken Ludwig’s Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood:

About the Play

Sherwood is one of a series of literary classics Ludwig has adapted for stage, a series that includes Treasure Island, The Three Musketeers, Murder On the Orient Express, and more. The story is a retelling of the legends of Robin Hood and his Merry Men, which have been entertaining audiences for at least the last seven hundred years. Updated for a modern audience, this play adopts many of the elements added to the story in recent retellings, including a capable and proto-feminist Maid Marian and a borderline democratic-socialist Robin Hood.

About the Author

Ken Ludwig has had six shows on Broadway and seven in London's West End, and many of his works have become a standard part of the American repertoire. Lend Me a Tenor won two Tony Awards and was called “one of the classic comedies of the 20th century” by The Washington Post. Crazy For You was on Broadway for five years and won the Tony and Olivier Awards for Best Musical. In addition, he has won two Olivier Awards (England’s highest theater honor), two Helen Hayes Awards, the Edgar Award for Best Mystery of the Year, and the Edwin Forrest Award for Contributions to the American Theater. His other plays include Moon Over Buffalo (starring Carol Burnett), Twentieth Century (starring Alec Baldwin), Be My Baby (starring Hal Holbrook), Baskerville, A Comedy of Tenors, Shakespeare in Hollywood, A Fox on the Fairway, Leading Ladies, and a stage version of Murder on the Orient Express written expressly at the request of the Agatha Christie Estate. His newest play, Dear Jack, Dear Louise, which tells the story of his parents' courtship during World War II, won the 2020 Helen Hayes / MacArthur Award for Best New Play or Musical. His book How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare, published by Penguin Random House, won the Falstaff Award for Best Shakespeare Book of the Year, and his essays are published by the Yale Review. His work has been performed in over thirty countries in more than twenty languages, and his plays are produced throughout the United States every night of the year.

The Legend of Robin Hood

“Many a man speaks of Robin Hood that never bent his bow.” — English proverb

The legend of Robin Hood, unlike King Arthur (who was the subject of some poetry produced on the Continent), is an entirely English invention. It’s also not without controversy. Robin Hood stories were among the most popular in the late Middle Ages and Tudor era, but critics often contrasted love of these legends with a lax religious devotion. 

By the sixteenth century, Robin Hood was cemented firmly into English tradition, but was still set in no particular period in history. It was John Major’s Historia Majoris Britanniæ in 1521 that located Robin in the midst of the reign of Richard I “the Lionhearted.” It was also Major’s reframing of Robin Hood that converted him and his Merry Men from a morally questionable band of robbers to an altruistic band of outlaw-heroes. In earlier medieval works, a yeoman Robin warns his men not to harm the poor, but he and his men also do nothing in particular to help the poor. In Richard Grafton's Chronicle at Large (1569), Robin leaves his yeoman status behind and becomes the displaced and impoverished Earl of Huntingdon. By the end of the sixteenth century, the newly aristocratic Robin robs from the rich to give to the poor, regularly keeps a Franciscan friar in his band of Merry Men, and maintains his chivalric devotion to good king Richard and to Marian, his lady fair.

Once Robin’s reputation is tamed, the appetite for Robin Hood stories becomes nearly endless. There are 38 distinct extant ballads produced between the 15th and 17th centuries and countless novels, poems, songs, plays, and films after that. Robin, converted from a morally ambiguous brigand to the ultimate example of chaotic good, becomes a folk-hero for the ages.

Check out the full Dramaturgical packet for Sherwood here.

Ken Ludwig's Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood

Directed by Sydney Parks Smith & James Burns

June 26 – July 24, 2021

In this rollicking new take on the beloved folktale, Sherwood is the enduring story of a hero of the people who takes on the ruthless powers that be. With swashbuckling adventure and a romantic heartbeat, this rip-roaring romp through Sherwood Forest brings back the youth in all of us. Laughs, romance and plenty of arrows fly in this all-out comic adventure!