Fourteen years ago, EDSS drama teacher DJ Carroll took a stroll in Elmira’s Gibson Park and had an epiphany. “I was just walking through it one day, and I kinda looked and said, ‘Wow… this could be Sherwood Forest.’”
An erstwhile history teacher and former artistic director of Waterloo’s Royal Medieval Faire, Carroll had been transferred to Elmira and was considering launching a similar medieval festival in the town. “I was already thinking I could do it here, then I said: ‘Robin Hood, Sherwood Forest, boom, done!’”
Now entering its 14th year, Robin in the Hood has come a long way. The two-day theatrical/educational/interactive festival has expanded in scale from 50 to 140 actors, 300 to 1,100 kids, and from half of Gibson Park to the whole area, plus part of John Mahood Public School.
“There are shows for people to see, there are games to play, activities to do,” explained Carroll. “You can come see the knights do battle; there’s a chance to shoot archery; and it’s a weekend out for the family.”
The theme of this year’s event is “Back to Basics,” and highlights a traditional knight tournament. “The fights every year are different,” said Carroll. “Even though we have people who have done the shows many times, we have some new people coming in and we’re making some changes, so it requires the same amount of prep time.”
But regular attendees can expect more of the same, including familiar faces in the annual theatrical extravaganza.
“We’ve encouraged a great return of previous years’ actors, I think a lot of our audience base likes to come out and see what the actors have changed or added to their characters.”
Even though the knights have barely drawn their swords from their sheaths, Carroll is already looking ahead to 2015, when Robin in the Hood will celebrate its milestone 15th anniversary.
“There’s going to be an incredible stage fight by our fighters, we’re going to do a big, epic battle,” he predicted. “We’re going to see the return of King Richard, who’ll be coming back to probably yell at his brother Prince John, because he’s messed everything up for the last couple of years.”
The festival’s education day and community show got things underway Thursday and Friday (May 29-30). Festival day at Gibson Park takes place Saturday (May 31), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 per person, or $15 per family.