OC Weekly (Joel Beers): Who adapted this piece for the stage?
So it's not surprising that its big summer show is a piece that will explode onto the silver screen next year, and which serves as prequel to one of the biggest cinematic events of the 21st century, The Lord of The Rings.
It's J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit
, the classic 1937 novel
which Rings director Peter Jackson
is turning into a two-part film, the first half of which hits the multi-plexes in 2012. While a print preview of the show will publish in the OC Weekly
in a couple of weeks, there's no better time to get some advance 411 on the play from its primary neuromancer: director Nathan Makaryk.
Our adaptation is by Patricia Gray.
There are actually quite a
few theatrical adaptations out there, but the script we're using is the closest to
Tolkien's actual novel.
Obvious, but why stage a theatrical adaptation of one of the most beloved novels of the 20th century?
Well the War of the Ring
is quite similar to the
war in Afghanistan
... wait, what? Come on now, we're doing it because it's
awesome. We want to entertain people. After I did Treasure Island
last year (Maverick artistic director) Brian (Newell) and I were spitting around ideas for other well-known fantasy-type stories
with swords and potential mega-puppets, and we laughingly talked about the
Hobbit. Then the more I looked into it the more I was able to envision how to do
it and knew that if we could pull it off it would be something worth talking
about. Certainly nobody ever does it, and with the movies coming out,
it's in the general public's awareness right now. It's got an epic scale, big
sword fights, a powerful narrative, and huge creatures. We wanted to do
something really cool. That's why.
This is an
ultimate road trip story. How do you convey the feeling of this grand adventure
and all the movement in a couple of hours in a theater?
The first thing I realized when thinking about it
was that it would be impossible to build a new set for everywhere they go. It
wouldn't be credible, and it would be beyond impossible to do on our stage. With
the Storyteller character, we have the device of using all of Tolkien's own
descriptive language to build the world within the audience's imagination, much
as they would if they were reading the book. So we have one multi-functional
permanent scenic structure that serves as every location, and rely on the music,
lighting, and the storyteller to convey the vast passage of space of time.
Personally, I think it works. At the end of every show I'm always astonished at
how epic the story has felt.
How do you capture the character of Smaug?
Well I'm certainly not going to tell you that. That's a secret for the
audience to discover when it happens. But I can tell you that it takes 18
people to bring our Smaug to life.
There is far more of a kid's feel to the Hobbit than the
Lord of the Rings. Does this adaptation capture that spirit or do you want it to
have a darker element?
I'm pretty sure the misconception that the Hobbit is a kid's story comes
directly from the 1977 cartoon movie. People remember that in the back of their
mind and think that because it's a cartoon that this story is for kids. There is
very little stylistic difference between the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien talks a bit more candidly as the novelist in the Hobbit, but the idea
that it in any way is for kids is completely misleading. It's read often in
school because of its quality and comparable short length. But in almost every
way it is as dark and deeply touching as the Lord of the Rings. Our production
tries to be as true to the novel as possible, which means that it is going to be
dark, terrifying, and hopefully ultimately uplifting.
Are you a bigger fan of Tolkien's books than Peter Jackson's films?
We haven't gotten to see Jackson's Hobbit yet, but if you're talking
about the Lord of the Rings then I'm a huge fan of both. The movies are in my
top five favorite movies of all time, and while there are obviously many
liberties taken from the novel I understand why they were done and don't find
the need to argue about them. Both are worthy of immense praise, and ultimately
tell the same story. Movies are a completely different beast than a novel, and
it's foolish to assume they can be comparable when they approach a fundamentally
different part of your listening brain.
People are very used to cinematic aspects in maverick
productions. Any of that in the Hobbit?
This production is very theatrical. We start the show by letting the
audience know that we are a bunch of actors telling a story. We make no qualms
about there not being huge elaborate set changes. The more willing the audience
is to believe that we are telling a story in a theatrical manner, the more
likely it is that they'll be able to believe in the truly fantastical elements
such as the trolls and the dragon. If we were approaching it from a cinematic or
more "realistic" direction, it would inevitably fail. The world of Middle Earth
is too large to "represent." Either you have to go all the way cinematically as
Jackson will be doing, or you have to ask the audience to listen to your story
and believe in it. Otherwise it will look very silly.