The Hobbit comes to Capilano University
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Also, because it's students I decided that lots of parts would be played by women, playing men. Half of the dwarves are women and all of the elves are women. In their development as actors they've had to find everything masculine about themselves. That has been a really interesting surprise. Gollum is played by a woman. It's been an interesting surprise, how the shifts in the play go in that direction.
I'm sure there'll be more surprises once we get into technical rehearsal.
WD: That also seems quite Japanese: women playing the roles of men.
SA: Yes, and it isn't an issue. It's not like there's a sexuality about them. Even to the point where I had the costume department to make codpieces for the women so they would understand that they couldn't sit in certain ways and that they had to walk in different ways because they were now equipped as men.
WD: How have they adjusted?
SA: They adjusted. The women loved it. Of course they loved it! They laughed and laughed and laughed until they couldn't stand up when they first put them on. Now they're used to them.
WD: The set is quite elaborate. How long has it taken to put it all together?
SA: They've been putting it together for a coupe of weeks. It's had its first coat of paint and the painters will come in as we're working through and start to do all the fine detail. The same for the stage in the centre.
We talked about all of the issues we wanted to deal with and it's a huge piece of machinery now. There are pieces missing right now: on the tower stage right, which is the audience's left, there's a cargo net that extends down and touches the floor quite like an obstacle course would look. We use that for the spider web and all different kinds of things as well.
The whole concept when I first started to discuss it with the designer was, let's just take a jungle-jim/obstacle course and see if we can develop it into a set. This is what we've ended up with.
There are two remarkable entities as well. Kevin Michael Cripps, who is part of the department here at Capilano University, has written an entire score for the play: ala a film score. He came to the rehearsals right from the beginning and he would watch rehearsal and he would go away and write music. The entire play, other than I think two small scenes, has a complete music score that the actors have to work with.
There are projections as well. We use a lot of video projections that will actually move and show movement, that are quite remarkable as well.
WD: You mentioned that you adapted it from a children's version to a more adult version. Was there any messaging put in?
SA: No, I think what we did was... first of all in Kim Selodys adaptation the trolls speak with an English accent and there are a lot of English references and there are a lot of really cute things. I went back and re-read the book and started to think about all of the ways of darkening the piece.
I think it's in the content in the sense that I think that Bilbo at first begins his trust of Gandolf and the dwarves because they're all older of him and they're adults and he's a young man. He goes on this journey with them and he trusts them and he thinks to trust those people he believes should be trust-worthy like the elves etc..
He doesn't trust, of course, trolls or goblins or anybody like that but then as the journey progresses he begins to understand that they all have other motives and agendas. He suddenly realizes that he has to take control of his own life and become his own deciding factor in what he does: his own moral compass.
I said to the students when we started the play, “I want you to think about when you all first came here to Capilano University and you were all excited about going on a journey through this experience."
Going to the theatre school and doing all of that, and then after six months of eating KD (Kraft Dinner) and not getting any sleep, you suddenly think, “Am I doing the right thing? Is this really right?” That growth factor. Then suddenly you come out after three years and go, “I know I made the right decision but it's because I got involved in my own life”. That's the journey of this play. It's just like what they're doing here at school.
The preview for The Hobbit is on November 18 and the play runs November 19 – 21, and Nov 24 to 27
tickets can be purchased at the Performing Arts Theatre box office at Capilano University.