Director Marissa Meek said she was looking for something to “kick-start” Olympic Theatre Arts’ youth program.
Judging by the rehearsal of OTA’s “The Hobbit” — set to run for two weekends, Aug. 5-14 — she may have found it.
“It’s going to be fantastic,” Meek said.
“I was looking for something to … integrate all ages,” she said, “and with a lot of potential for everyone to get involved in the tech and design of the production.”
The set design includes dozens of cast member-made pieces: yarn wigs, a giant black spider, 10-foot trolls with painted faces and gargantuan hands, recyclables repurposed into things like barrels, jugs and a pepper shaker, the door to No. 1 Bagshot Row and a small puppet show frame and patchwork curtain all point to the countless hours the more than 50 member cast and crew devoted to the 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 performed before an attentive audience of hobbits: small, hairy-footed folk who appreciate comfort and plenty of meals, masters at walking quietly, with a core of strength and resilience.
“They do a couple of magic tricks to entertain the hobbit children,” Meek said. “They say they’re going to tell the story and then the world opens up to the actual adventure.”
The small puppets held on sticks by the people behind the curtain are dwarfed in size by their giant counterparts that in later scenes interact with the actors of the play.
“We’re taking the perspective of it’s the story and it comes to life in front of you and around you,” Meek said, adding there would be things “happening in amongst the audience.”
Writer Nathan Makaryk adapted J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel into a two act play by putting Tolkien’s words into the mouth of the storyteller wizard who shares with the audiences the adventures of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Taylor Dowley), 13 dwarves, the mighty wizard Gandalf the Grey (Misha Ostrovsky) and a series of unfortunate ponies, as well as the trolls, elves, goblins, humans and others who get mixed up with them during their quest to win back the kingdom of the family of Thorin Oakenshield (Caleb Demott).
“So much of the charm of the voice of the book comes from Tolkien’s descriptions, which feels very much like a friend or family telling a favorite story from heart,” Makaryk said. “The only way to faithfully get that warmth was to include the narration itself, which is coincidentally very helpful from a theatrical point of view. By calling attention to the fact that this is a story, told by performers, it allows for more imagination to be called upon by the audience… rather than requiring a massive budget to make these things come to life realistically on stage.”
The dragon Smaug (pronounced Sm-ow-g), both the journey’s destination in “The Hobbit” and a metaphor for the corruption that lurks within the hearts of dwarves and humans, is 30 feet long and 12 feet tall, taking five people to operate.
Meek said it was constructed from, “cardboard, recycled foam, masking tape, paint, fabric, plastic bowls, PVC pipe, bamboo, duct tape, gossamer fabric [and] backpacks.”
The trolls are also built upon backpacks, operated by one person each.
The approximately 40-member cast is made up of all ages from 6 to 70s, including several families.
“I enjoy working with all ages together; it’s a lot of fun,” Meek said.
Organizing such a large cast is “orchestrated chaos,” she said.
“I feel privileged to work with these awesome people; everyone is so cool,” Meek said.
“It’ll be messy up to the last second and then fantastic.”
Tickets are $20 per person, $15 for students for the play that hits the stage at 7 p.m. Aug. 5-6 and Aug. 11-14, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7. A pay-what-you-will night is set for Thursday, Aug. 11.
Find more information at olympictheatrearts.org or by calling the OTA box office (360-683-7326) between 1-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday.
Olympic Theatre Arts’ ‘The Hobbit’
Show dates: Aug. 5-7, Aug. 11-14
Show times: All shows 7 p.m. except Sunday, Aug. 7 (2 p.m.)
Where: 414 N. Sequim Ave.
Tickets: $20, students $15 (Pay-what-you-will on Aug. 11)
More info: olympictheatrearts.org, box office (360-683-7326) 1-4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday