Giant actors and gargantuan puppets bring ‘The Hobbit’ to life
Director Marissa Meek said she was looking for something to “kick off” Olympic Theater Arts’ youth program.
Judging by OTA’s repeat of “The Hobbit” — which will run over two weekends, August 5-14 — she might have found it.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” Meek said.
“I was looking for something to… be inclusive of all ages,” she said, “and with a lot of potential for everyone to get involved in the technology and design of the production.”
The scenography includes dozens of parts made by the actors: yarn wigs, a giant black spider, 10-foot trolls with painted faces and gargantuan hands, recyclable materials repurposed into things like barrels, jugs and a pepper shaker, the door to Number 1 Bagshot Row, and a small puppet show frame and patchwork curtain all speak to the countless hours that the more than 50 cast and crew members put into props for this play.
The show opens with a storyteller, played by Roxy Woods — “a low-rent wizard,” Meek said.
A small puppet show is presented before an attentive audience of hobbits: little people with hairy feet who appreciate comfort and hearty meals, masters of walking quietly, with a core of strength and resilience.
“They do some magic tricks to entertain the hobbit kids,” Meek said. “They say they’ll tell the story, and then the world opens up to real adventure.”
The small puppets held on sticks by the people behind the curtain are dwarfed by their giant counterparts who, in later scenes, interact with the actors in the play.
“We take the perspective of the story and it comes to life in front of you and around you,” Meek said, adding that there would be things “happening among the audience.”
Writer Nathan Makaryk has adapted JRR Tolkien’s classic novel into a two-act play by putting Tolkien’s words through the mouth of the wizard-storyteller who shares with the audience the adventures of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Taylor Dowley), 13 Dwarfs, the mighty wizard Gandalf the Gray (Misha Ostrovsky) and a series of hapless ponies, as well as the trolls, elves, goblins, humans and others who mingle with them on their quest to reclaim the kingdom from Thorin Oakenshield’s family ( Caleb Demott).
“A lot of the book’s voice charm comes from Tolkien’s descriptions, which sound a lot like a friend or family telling a favorite story from the heart,” Makaryk said. “The only way to get that warmth faithfully was to include the narration itself, which is coincidentally very useful from a theatrical standpoint. By drawing attention to the fact that it’s about a story, told by performers, it allows the audience to draw on more imagination…rather than requiring a huge budget to bring these things to realistic life on stage.
The dragon Smaug (pronounced Sm-ow-g), both the destination of the journey in “The Hobbit” and a metaphor for the corruption that lurks in the hearts of dwarves and humans alike, measures 30 feet long and 13 feet high, taking five people to operate.
Meek said it was constructed from “cardboard, recycled foam, duct tape, paint, fabric, plastic bowls, PVC pipe, bamboo, duct tape, wispy fabric [and] backpack.
Trolls are also built on backpacks, operated by one person each.
The approximately 40-member cast is made up of all ages from 6 to 70, including several families.
“I enjoy working with all ages; it’s a lot of fun,” Meek said.
Organizing such a large distribution is “orchestrated chaos”, she said.
“I feel privileged to work with these wonderful people; everyone is so cool,” Meek said.
“It will be messy until the last second and then fantastic.”
Tickets are $20 per person, $15 for students for the play which will be on stage at 7 p.m. August 5-7 and August 11-13 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, August 14. the night is set for Thursday, August 11.
Find more information at olympictheatrearts.org or by calling the OTA box office (360-683-7326) between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.
Olympic Theater Arts’ “The Hobbit”
Show dates: August 5-7, August 11-14
Show times: All shows at 7 p.m. except Sunday, August 14 (2 p.m.)
Where: 414 N. Sequim Ave.
Tickets: $20, students $15 (pay what you want August 11)
More information: olympictheatrearts.org, box office (360-683-7326) 1-4pm, Tuesday-Friday