December 13, 1999Hobbit Fever
Takes Over Manitoba Theatre
The Manitoba Theatre for Young People has transformed its flex space theatre
into Middle Earth this week. That's the world J.R.R. Tolkien created for his story The
The Manitoba Theatre for Young People designed
its new theatre to accommodate just this kind of production. Most of the seats have been
removed so the audience is seated on the floor right in the midst of all the action.
Leslee Silverman, MTYP's artistic director, says
from the moment the audience enters the theatre, she wants to transport them to Tolkien's
"The production space looks as epic as the
story of The Hobbit itself," she says. "For the first time we are able to
make a mountain in the space, make caves, a forest that means that the audience is
among the environment in which the story takes place."
Silverman believes productions such as The
Hobbit are critical to the future of live children's theatre.
"It needs to compete with the two
dimensions of film and video now," she says, "and the only way to do that is to
provide designers with a kind of space in which suddenly a flashpot is as exciting as
pressing a button on a video machine."
MTYP seems to be on the right track. Its
production of The Hobbit has been so popular that the company has had to double the
number of public performances and the play hasn't even opened yet.