As you all know, the midnight premiere of the newest version of “The Hobbit” is almost upon us. I imagine starting another epic journey with Jackson will forever ingrain his ingenious creative interpretation into my heart and mind. But before I go, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on this story as I saw it as a child.
First of all, my grandmother, whom we affectionately called Granny, was a huge fan of Middle Earth. She was also a lover of all things magical and would even write poems of elves on ships and fairy kings stuck in spidery webs. Although it wouldn’t be until later in life that I would try and read the books for myself, it wasn’t surprising to have some of my visits with her be about Shelob or Smeagul or even Smaug himself. To this day I still have a love for fantasy lore, and I am proud that it is a part of me that continues to define who I am.
Back in 1977, Rankin/Bass, the same people who brought us classics such as “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”, made their animated version of the Tolkien classic. I would have been 8 years old around that time. I don’t remember if I saw it on TV like the other movies or what, but I was instantly enamored. I also can’t remember where or why, but somehow my mother had purchased the vinyl record to the audio of the movie. This wasn’t the soundtrack mind you, but it was accompanied by a detailed storybook that you could follow along with the story. Basically, it was pretty much the full audio version of the movie, and I remember playing that record over and over in our living room and playing out all the characters until I pretty much had that thing memorized. Even now, I still can recite most of it whenever I watch the movie.
In the summer of 1982, the local children’s theater was having auditions for “The Hobbit”. At that point, I had only performed and auditioned for school plays. My only real outside activity was the All-City Children’s chorus. I could be wrong about this, but I thought it was actually my dad that pointed out the audition notice in the paper and encouraged me to try out. Had it been any other play, I probably would have felt too nervous or unworthy to audition, but this was “The Hobbit”! Somehow I found the courage to show up. Not only that, but I was feeling certain that I would be perfect for Bilbo. I didn’t get Bilbo, of course, nor did I get any of the dwarves, but I did get cast in the play as Mag, one of the three trolls. Although the play wasn’t the same as the animated version, I do remember having to stomp around and sing about mutton.
That may not sound like much, but being cast and participating in this play was a life-changing moment for me. It was when I truly fell in love with the theater and it was one of the only places I really felt at home. I was a chubby girl who probably did look more like a Hobbit through most of my childhood, but during that summer, I started to grow out of my girlish shell. Not only did I learn a lot about responsibility and accountability through working at the theater (not all actors are flakes), but my self-esteem also began to improve. During “The Hobbit” was the first time someone had a crush on me. It was one of the goblins, which I think is rather ironic, considering I later married a man whose last name is pronounced “Goblins”. I also returned to that theater almost every year after that to perform such characters as Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”, Cinderella in “Cinderella”, Tweedle-Dee in “Alice in Wonderland” and Lucy in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown”. After high school I continued my acting career by getting a degree in Theater at the University of Wyoming and then moving around from State to State to find my luck on stage. It eventually led me to California where I got my first agent and SAG card. I wish I could be writing this as someone famous and saying this is where it all started. In fact, I would have loved to have been cast in Peter Jackson’s movies as a perfect twist to this personal tale, but sadly it was just not meant to be.
Although my acting is a bit of a bittersweet topic for me most of the time, I will say that I do not regret one moment of my time doing what I loved so much, and I have both the Hobbit, Mom, Dad, my brother Brian and my Granny to thank for giving me such wonderful memories. I actually feel pretty emotional writing about this, because there IS so much history already tied behind this night. I really wish Granny could be around to share this. I really miss her tonight. I have a feeling she would have loved it. And although me watching the movie, without me being in it, is not how I would have ended this personal entry, I also know that it’s still not about the destination but the journey.
My little chubby hobbit feet still have miles to go.
Ah… thank goodness.