CBC Entertainment
December 13, 1999

Hobbit Fever Takes Over Manitoba Theatre
Janet Ringer

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 Hobbit.

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 mythical universe.

"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.