Thursday, May 7, 2009

Robin Hood and his Merry Men

Things are proceeding nicely with preparations of the masks and puppets for "The Last Unicorn." The Butterfly is completed- I wound up making some alterations to the design- and now that I have a digital camera at my disposal I'll be posting a photo here shortly (look for it later this week). In the mean time, I want to examine another design that I've been wrestling with for a while now- how best to represent the scene where Schmendrick accidentally conjures up Robin Hood and his Merry Men at Captain Cully's camp. Their procession has to have something special about it- more than just actors in costumes. There has to be an element of arresting spectacle to it. So for each of the Robin Hood characters we need to represent (Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Alan a Dale, Little John, and Will Scarlet are the ones we chose. Sorry Friar Tuck!), I decided to create a sort of puppet that's a lot more like a processional banner that the puppeteer carries than anything else. Here's the initial design (which has since changed):

This was before I knew for sure that we'd be in City Lit- it's a lovely, intimate space, with the downside that the hallways backstage are pretty narrow and the ceiling is pretty low. So instead of these medieval banners, I decided to convert them to icons that are carried/brandished by the actors holding them. The body, instead of free canvas, will be stretched canvas on a wood frame. In the original design, I was going to use styrofoam wig heads painted over for the faces on top, but it was pointed out to me by my mask and puppetry instructor that that's a little bit shoddy, especially since he's just finished teaching me how to build several different kinds of masks. So instead we may go with some sort of simply, unadorned cardboard/papier machet or Venitian style mask above each image. Regardless, the faces should be relatively featureless and blank- the real detail and specificity comes from what's shown on the icon/banner below:

The idea is that each icon should be an illuminated page of text, from a medieval tale of Robin Hood. Each page deals with the character that the puppet/icon represents. What I actually put is going to be dictated by room, but since it's a little hard to read I'll put here what's written in the sketches:

Robin Hood:
"Robin Hood knew then that the Sheriff has penetrated his disguise. Removing his false beard, he once again bravely took aim at the target. Once again, he easily pierced the bullseye, and immediately drew his sword and called for his merry men."

Maid Marian:
"Maid Marian moved silently through the forest towards the glen inhabited by Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Her heart beat fiercely as she stealthily stole through the shadows. Would she reach her love in time to warn him of the Sheriff's plan?"

Little John:
"Little John stood astride the bridge. 'None may pass,' he said. Robin approached and said, 'If I best you in single combat, will you allow us to pass safely?' 'Aye,' the Giant rumbled."

"Alan-a-Dale began to play his lute. At once, the Sheriff and his men dropped their weapons and began to yawn. Soon they were all fast asleep. Being merciful, Robin ordered his Merry Men to leave them unharmed where they lay."

Will Scarlet:
"Will Scarlet merrily juggled his daggers as the Sheriff's men approached. With a flick of his wrist, one of the men fell down with a dagger in his heart. 'Fine sport today, eh Robin,' Will called joyfully.

I bought the stretched canvas yesterday, and I'm excited to see how these work out!


Ghostlight Chicago said...

Brilliant solution to a creative challenge. I think the design is stunning and I cannot wait to see them in practice.

I also know that you will use full production value with your final product. Often the concept is good and the final design is shotty. Not with you - I know that you have high standards and will fight for them.

Anonymous said...

Can we have lots of mayhem in the play itself? Can the red bull make blood flow, heads roll, guts spill? Can someone be drawn and quartered? How about an auto-da-fe?

Ed R said...

Hmm...your comment intrigues me, Anonymous. There will be some blood and death in the show, but not, alas, as much as it sounds like you're craving. Still, I think I'll be able to make it into a pretty good time.