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February 12, 2003

'Hobbit Fever' Grips CDS Upper Campus
Staff Reporter

An epidemic of interest in the works of the late J.R.R. Tolkien has broken out at the upper campus of Carrollwood Day School. Student conversations overheard recently have been buzzing with references to elves, dwarves, goblins, and of course, hobbits, as nearly a hundred students from grades 3-8 prepare for their roles in the annual school drama production.

“The choice of The Hobbit for this year’s drama production has opened up the world of Tolkien’s work to many of our students who otherwise might not have been drawn to read his books.” says middle school Language Arts teacher Jennifer Dosher. Copies of The Hobbit and volumes from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy are often seen in the hands of students. “The play has generated interest in Tolkien’s books at all grade levels, from elementary through middle school. We can’t keep his books on the shelves, and have a long waiting list for The Hobbit.” says School Librarian Mary Nelson.

All of this excitement revolves around the play J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which will be performed on Tuesday, March 18 at 7:00 p.m. on the stage of Ferguson Hall at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. 38 CDS middle school students comprise the featured cast, with a supporting cast of 56 elementary students. The show stars eighth grade students Michelle Salem as the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, Daniel Fernandez as Gandalf the Wizard, and Jamie Smith as dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield. Featured roles include that of the water-creature Gollum played by sixth grader Nicu Brouillette, and the Elven-Queen played by eighth grader Noelle Voges. The large cast also includes the company of thirteen dwarves who accompany Bilbo, and the various trolls, goblins, and elves who menace or attempt to waylay them on their quest to recover stolen treasure from the dragon Smaug.

Students are not only preparing for their roles on the stage, but are working behind the scenes as well. In addition to rehearsals, most middle school cast members participate in production classes, helping to design and create many of the stage properties to be used in the production. One special class led by Art teacher Colleen Vinson, is dedicated to building the giant dragon puppet that will appear in the play’s final scene. Other classes have been priming and painting sets and props, designing and creating armor and weapons for trolls, goblins and elves appearing in the show, and creating giant mushrooms and other set decorations for some of the play’s woodland scenes.

Parent involvement has been a big part of the excitement growing over the production too, as many volunteers donate their time and skills to daily rehearsals, classes, and other behind-the-scenes preparations. Middle school parent Tony Huber has built several extraordinary sets for the show, including a beautiful realization of Bag End (Bilbo’s hobbit-hole) and the Elven-Queen’s dungeon. Other parents are working on the many costumes and stage properties required for the show, as well as makeup, special effects, and promotion.

“It’s remarkable how so many people are pulling together to make this play happen.” says director Walter Bitner. “There is a tremendous amount of work being done, and all with a great sense of fun. One really feels that bringing this story to life on the stage is a labor of love on the part of everyone involved.”

Tickets for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit are $10 per seat and are expected to go on sale March 5. To purchase tickets please contact the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center Box Office at (813) 229-7827.

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