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Marian Smashes the Patriarchy

Thursday, November 9, 2023—Theater Director and Performing Arts Faculty Jeremy Johnson was a little nervous when he approached Head of School Sarah Pelmas about Marian, or the True Tale of Robin Hood. After all, the play continues to be banned in some high schools across the country for its gender-bending take on the classic tale. He needn’t have worried. “I love this show and it sounds perfect for Winsor,” said Ms. Pelmas, who immediately agreed that Marian had to be the Upper School fall play for the 2023–2024 school year.

In Marian, or the True Tale of Robin Hood, Maid Marian has always been Robin Hood. She leads a group of “Merry Men”—who are mostly women—and fights against the greed of Prince John. The play explores the cost of revealing your true self, especially in a time of trouble. Playgoers ultimately confront their own role in protecting the vulnerable in our population. 

Once rehearsals were underway, Mr. Johnson brought in professional fight choreographer Amanda O'Donnell to work with actors. Students engaged in combat training, first with wooden swords, then with steel. In fact, the choreography was so physically demanding that students received a physical education credit for their efforts. Students were also trained by professional intimacy coordinator Ellen Waylonis, who assisted on the romantic scenes. A relatively new but extremely important job, intimacy coordinators work with actors and directors to create staging that feels emotionally safe and respectful of the actors' boundaries while telling the story the script requires. 

Green-dappled lighting and moss covered structures helped bring the story to life. Performing Arts Faculty Andres Puigbo and his band of merry stage crew—Izzy Lai ’27, Jessica Wu ’24, Jolie Zink ’25, and alumna Brianna Feliciano ’20—ran sound, lighting, props, and more for the show. Additionally, Mr. Puigbo’s stagecraft courses helped build the set with an emphasis on height and depth. The two-story structures were especially important for chase and fight scenes when chaos reigned and actors ran up stairs, swung in from the wings, and crouched in treetops. 

With bows, swords, spears, cast iron skillets, and a cowardly prince, it was a fall play to remember. The show run was November 3–4, and opening night was followed by a reception.

“I appreciate working in a place where we get this support,” said Mr. Johnson. 

See the program.