About 20 people sat in a circle, reading an unconventional take on the Robin Hood tale.
There were young kids and middle-age theater enthusiasts – a Carolina RailHawks soccer mascot, a break dancer, a firefighter, an accent master, a horseback rider and a few Chick-fil-A employees.
All wanted a chance to take part in the newly formed Apex Community Theatre. The group plans to stage a production of “Rob’n Hood” in September.
The effort is a collaboration between the Apex Arts Council and London Salt Productions, a theater company recently formed by Pepper Jensen and Paris Sterling.
Apex didn’t have a community theater troupe until now. Jensen said the Apex Arts Council had been expressing interest in starting a group for years.
“We came up with this idea about two month ago,” Jensen said. “Things just came together at the right time and place.”
London Salt has nothing to do with our neighbors across the pond. The name actually comes from a punny play on Sterling and Jensen’s first names – London, like Paris, and Salt, like Pepper.
Jensen, a recent graduate of UNC-Pembroke, has been acting since he was a kid. He will serve as director and choreographer for the group’s first show.
Sterling, meanwhile, brings the element of music to the stage, as the composer and voice coach. She’s been playing and teaching piano for years.
“We want to do something new,” Jensen said. “We want to be more creative.”
“Rob’n Hood” is a twist on the traditional story of Robin Hood, who steals from the rich to give to the poor. Jensen wrote the musical in iambic pentameter rhythm. Sterling composed the music for the show.
“A lot of times, Robin Hood is portrayed as a hero, even though he’s practicing stealing,” Jensen said. “We want to kind of look at the dynamics of why that was, and why Robin is portrayed as a hero when morally what he’s doing would be considered wrong in our society.”
The goal is to share a moral message while being family-friendly. There are clear Christian and biblical undertones.
“A lot of times, the art and the environment of theater has been a little more risque and a little more liberal,” Jensen said. “We’re approaching theater much more morally. We want to incorporate the community and promote good values.”
He hopes the group won’t face criticism for its approach.
“We want to make the plays not abrasive,” Jensen said. “We want to make them so that anyone can come and enjoy them without feeling –”
“Preached at?” Sterling interjected.
“Yeah, preached at,” Jensen said. “The opposition might be because we are approaching this from a non-traditional standpoint. In the end, people may have prejudices or biases, but hopefully people won’t continue to have those feelings, because the show is such an incredible show.”
For now, London Salt meets at the Western Wake Bible Chapel on Center Street. The group is currently looking for a venue to host practices and performances.
“We have discussed having it outside, at a park or an outdoor stage,” Jensen said.
The challenge for the group is getting its name out there. Jensen and Sterling are still looking to fill a few spots in the musical after a low turnout at the first round of auditions.
“There are opportunities for theater in the area that have already been well established,” Jensen said. “We have to work on getting the word out there and making a name for ourselves.”
In the meantime, Jensen and Sterling are building a theater community that produces original content. They hope to give people the opportunity to write and perform original pieces.
“I think it’s unique. If you look at Shakespeare, that’s how it was done,” Jensen said. “We want to create our own stories here.”