Bilbo does Prince’s Island Park

By Nicole Kobie

Move over Harry Potter, The Hobbit’s coming to Calgary. As part of the Mount Royal Conservatory’s Shakespeare in the Park (SITP) millennium production, an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s popular children’s story will be performed alongside Shakespeare’s As You Like It and Macbeth.

A kid’s book performed next to Shakespeare may confuse some people, but SITP’s Festival Director Kevin McKendrick thinks it makes perfect sense.

"There seems to be a classicism to Tolkien that seems to be a nice parallel to Shakespeare," he explains. "Both of those writers celebrate language and invented words and phrases that we’ve come to use in our daily speech.

"It’s hard to mention Gandalf or Bilbo Baggins and have somebody not have some connection even if they haven’t read the book, so it seemed to be an appropriate choice."

The production of The Hobbit is different than the other plays running this year in more than just author. To celebrate the millennium and the last 13 years of SITP, this play is an alumni project. All cast and backstage members are professionals who once worked with SITP.

While he calls it a family show, McKendrick believes it’s not only for the young, but the young at heart as well. According to McKendrick, that’s the way Tolkien wrote the story: for children, with adults in mind.

"We’ve had as much enthusiasm from adults about an opportunity to see this as from younger people. We’re quite confident it will entertain all ages," says McKendrick.

The recent performances of The Hobbit at the Banff Arts Festival sold out. The staging in Banff is unique as the performers act around, through and behind the audience. As well, the Rocky Mountains prove to be a stunning backdrop to Bilbo’s journey to the Lonely Mountain.

"This one that’s being done in Banff was originally slated to be performed only in SITP, but then the Banff Arts Festival heard we were doing it and asked if they could join us as a co-producer," explains McKendrick. "That extended the run by an extra two weeks."

The Hobbit begins Aug. 3. All SITP performances are free and run until Aug. 20.

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