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Shaping the Story

Petite vs. Powerful

Whether you know it through bedtime stories or perhaps the Disney cartoon, just about every person has heard the name Robin Hood. It’s a classic story from the depths of time, but why is it always told the way that it is? A heroic man with hidden talents swoops in to win the day. Women throughout history haven’t really been pivotal points in stories like this. Secondary characters are typically the ones who are merely the sexual temptation for the lead male. Why? When it comes to dancing, theatre, and the arts, women tend to be the predominant gender who have to fight for their place, and when they finally get it, it’s merely supporting the men.

When we look back at classic ballets, we notice many examples of the woman being a fragile creature who needs protecting or is merely a prize to be won. However, when I met Hilary Wolfley, the BYU Ballet Showcase director, she expressed her theme thus:

She walked into this wanting to make women the pivotal characters who are strong and can change the story.

Anyone who’s ever done, or seen, the inner workings of ballet would know that while it looks beautiful and effortless (which is often part of the point), it is anything but. With grueling drills, muscles that grow weak from practice but are continuously working in pain, and the superhuman feat of standing on one’s toes, ballerinas are not people you want to mess with. I feel as though their calves alone could crush a watermelon. So for history to paint these dancers as anything but strong is an insult. With the combination of feminism continuously growing and the realization of how much these dancers go through, it seems only fitting that these dancers be given justice to demonstrate their strength on stage in a piece that most expect to be centered on male figures.

Robyn Hood on stage
Photo by Emma Rollins

This story is doing just that, sharing the strength and power of women that have yet to be shared on the stage. While society, over the centuries, has been changing its view on women, we as women have known our inner strength all along. This story is a beautiful representation of how women are so strong both within themselves but also within their communities.

To start these concepts off, Hilary Wolfley, the director, Wendy Gourley, a professional storyteller, and I (as dramaturg) all got together to discuss how we can take this classic story of Robin Hood and turn it into a piece that was new and able to tell the story we wanted. It began with the concept of putting women in positions of strength and telling the story, but not just as side characters. It was honestly kind of hard to find the truly original work, as Robin Hood came from hundreds of years ago and has been changed and adapted so many times. So with this, we took what we found of the story and molded it to be the modern take you’ll be seeing today.

We wanted our feminist perspective to focus on the concept of pro-women, not anti-men. So we focused on the strengths of what makes women strong and powerful. We focused on friendships and unity. We see this with Robyn stepping in to help Scarlett, to show the community and connection that they have. We see Maid Marian and the refugees in the forest come together to support Robyn, our leading lady, and her daughter in a time of need. You see these strong women coming together to fight for what they believe is right. With it being an all-female cast, we see just how much strength women have when they come together.

So throughout the process, we wondered, “What kind of connection should there be between Robyn and Scarlett?” or “How do we show that we are not anti-men but merely pro-women?” By casting women because they are being strong, supporting one another, and lifting each other, we are able to see the way that Robyn Hood portrayed today can show women being not just “delicate, light, easily persuaded, and decorative” but strong, powerful, and able to change the world.

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