'The Hobbit' hits Penn-Trafford stage before movie screens
Amber Shojaie has been spending a lot of time on YouTube lately.
But it's not just for fun. It's research for portraying Gollum in the Penn-Trafford High School Drama Guild's Production of “The Hobbit,” which begins a three-day run on Friday night.
Amber, a sophomore, is taking her turn in the role Andy Serkis made famous in the “Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy and is reprising in another trio of movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien's characters from Middle Earth.
Amber said she studied videos featuring Gollum, a deformed and transformed former hobbit, to be able to imitate his raspy speech and hunched posture.
“Playing a creature is pretty exhilarating,” said Amber, who is participating in her third school production. “I've never played anything other than a human.”
The play precedes the opening of the first installment of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of “The Hobbit” by two weeks.
Not many theater productions have tried doing “The Hobbit,” said play director Tom Bekavac, who has worked on Penn-Trafford shows for 25 years.
The story follows Bilbo Baggins, who gets swept into an adventure to raid a treasure protected by a dragon. With the play featuring 13 dwarves, the production lends itself to incorporating as many students as possible. About 40 will be on stage during the course of a show.
“It's a huge cast,” Bekavac said. “It's a good story, and I've always wanted to do it.”
It's a change of pace from last year's fall show, “A Christmas Carol.”
Tolkien's tales are known for featuring epic battles. Among the crew for the Penn-Trafford show this fall is Rob MacIntyre, who has 16 years of experience in stage fighting.
Crew members helped to build clubs and spears from PVC pipes and foam to supplement some toy swords that were bought or the show.
“They look amazing,” Bekavac said. “They look realistic.”
The costume department also had to create much of the clothing from scratch because no other recent productions had anything similar. Many of the robes or other outfits are color-specific for a particular role.
The dwarves — most of whom are played by female students — wear long beards and improvised fat suits to accentuate their pot bellies.
Without the computer-generated effects of Hollywood, Gollum appears in a camouflage suit and goggles with LED lights.
“I spend a lot of time at Jo-Ann fabrics,” said Donita Sanders, a retired family and consumer sciences teacher who helped create the clothing.
The shows this weekend follow weeks of preparation since auditions ended in late September.
Students playing the main characters said they have enjoyed embodying their roles.
Senior Dan Forringer said his character of Gandalf has a tendency to use his wit to trick people into doing certain tasks. Sophomore Taylor Powell said she relishes exploring the inner evil of the Elven Queen.
As for senior Jarrett Reiche, playing Bilbo lured him to become a big fan of Tolkien's work. He's been in every one of the guild's shows for the past four years and is interested in studying acting at Penn State.
“It's a frantic part,” he said of Bilbo. “It's fun to play it and be kind of crazy.”
Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates will play NL wild-card game at PNC Park after shutting out Reds
- Nothing normal about Steelers’ standard as backups fill vital roles
- Pirates notebook: Huntington weighs whether wild-card round should be expanded
- Penguins notebook: Farnham relishes making opening-night roster
- Power plants challenged by carbon capture and storage
- Pittsburgh Police Department to expand use of body cameras for officers
- Energy efficiency goes mainstream with help of regulations, consumer demand
- Pittsburgh’s bike sharing service starts off healthy
- Manor festival will help animal shelters, rescues
- Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC’s 125th anniversary bash raises stunning $11.9 million
- Auction Watch: Furniture, china sales show signs of life; law office’s art goes on block