Theatre for Social Justice: The Hobbit

Written By: Katie Bandurski

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Gandalf (Dan Scott) and Bilbo (Joe Schwalb) talk of adventures

Tissue paper flowers litter the stage, bolts of fabric clutter the costume room, actors gather in the Black Box Theatre, adamantly performing warm ups. Production for Homestead High School’s version of The Hobbit is in full swing.

Focusing on the adventures of Bilbo Baggins as he unwillingly accompanies a band of dwarves who embark on a quest to reclaim their home from a greedy dragon, The Hobbit has something for everyone.

In addition to bringing J.R.R Tolkein’s classic children’s story to life, this initial show in Homestead’s Theatre for Social Justice season focuses on bigger issues.

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The Dwarves present Bilbo with their clean dishes

Miss Amelia Figg-Franzoi, director, chose to tie each of the three yearly productions to a prominent societal issue. “The Hobbit examines the issue of intergroup intolerance in Middle Earth and how it might inform us about similar prejudices in our world. Our musical is Rogers and Hammerstein’s masterpiece Carousel, which sheds light on both physical and emotional abuse. Our season will end with an interesting and thought-provoking twist, a gender-swapped version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which will undoubtedly create some valuable discussions regarding gender stereotypes and social norms” Figg explained.

In addition to raising awareness, each show will partner with a specific organization to collect money and supplies. For example, The Hobbit is paired with the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, and both theatregoers and those involved in the production are encouraged to donate money, clothing, or health care products to benefit the homeless. A complete list of needed items can be found at milmission.org.

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Gollum, played by senior, Clare Baumgart, tries to figure out a riddle

Daniel Scott, actor and co-president of Drama Club, stated, “As actors, we have the responsibility to play a role. We have to immerse ourselves in the concept of our struggles and really consider what it would mean to be without a home, to be shunned due to racism, to be discriminated for our gender, to be, at times, somewhat hopeless.”

Alex Gieske, actor and vice-president of Drama Club added that “we hope to leave a lasting impression on both the audience and everyone involved with the performance so they can go out and feel inspired to make a difference.”

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The Elves, Miranda Grisa and Alina Feldman trap the Dwarves in Mirkwood forest

When asked why she chose this season’s theme, Figg explained that “we at Homestead feel that we should use theatre to shed light on some social issues that seem to fall through the cracks.  We are not here to start a movement of sorts, but we would like to allow discussion and maybe a new way of thinking.  Maybe someone in our audience will be inspired to change the world how ever big or small that change may be.”

The Hobbit will run Oct. 18-20 in Homestead’s James Barr Auditorium, 5000 West Mequon Road, Mequon WI, with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $7 for students, $8 for adults, and those who donate money or needed items for the rescue mission will receive $1 off the admission price.

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