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Prairie HS to use sword and sorcery in spring production

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By Steve Van Kooten

 

Prairie du Chien High School has announced an unexpected journey, and the students aren’t the only ones going from the Shire to the bowels of Lonely Mountain.

Starting on April 11, the Prairie du Chien Area Arts Center (PAAC) will become a far-off land of high fantasy. There will be battles between dwarves and orcs, uneasy alliances between humans and mythic creatures and one surly dragon at the end of a very long road for the heroes when students bring “The Hobbit” to life.

Adam Stout, the play’s director, said the students chose the play themselves.

“We started looking at spring play choices, and we wanted something [different] — we’d done a lot of serious pieces in the recent past. We did some Shakespeare,” said Adam Stout. In 2023, students dramatized “Letters to Sala,” a story entrenched in wartime Germany.

“A lot of the feedback I was getting from students was, Can we do something light and fun?” The students wanted to use elaborate costumes and sets, according to Adam Stout.

“You have all these magical creatures, like a unicorn or a dragon. It really brings out the creativeness [sic],” John Hying, one of the play’s performers, said.

Kevin Stout, another performer, located a manageable adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s seminal novel. While the original story required a large cast for its voluminous roster of characters, an abridged version by Edward Mast, an American playwright, condensed the story down for a smaller roster.

“It’s not going to have everything in the movie, but it’s going to have the important scenes,” said Adam Stout.

The cast rehearsed several scenes on Wednesday, March 27, after school. Students lumbered onto the stage with Styrofoam clubs, grunting and shambling into a chaotic fight with a band of weary heroes. Erin Lenz, who will play the titular character, barrel-rolled as another student swung with her club.

“Even if you haven’t seen [the movies] or read the books, everyone knows ‘The Hobbit,’” Lenz said before rehearsal. “It’s a very common name to hear when it comes to fantasy.”

Lenz, dressed with pointy ears and slippers that resembled large, hairy feet, hoped the production will bring more attention to the arts from the student body and the community.

“I think — especially in this community — there’s support for the arts, but it could always be stronger. So, to bring in a show where people know the names, [they] will say, ‘You know what? I’m going to go see that.”

Adam Stout said the community responded well to the students’ choice.

“I’ve been surprised since we announced we were doing ‘The Hobbit’ how many people have said, “Yes, ‘The Hobbit.’”

And maybe they’re right. Has anyone around town asked, “Have you seen a good Macbeth lately?”

Many students said it offered a different appeal than a realist play or a comedy.

“I think fantasy lets people not think about their lives for a few minutes or so,” Nicole Andrews, a cast and crew member, said.

“Fantasy is one of the best mediums for transferring the message,” said Lenz. “The beauty of fantasy is you get all those real-world messages in a way that still allows you to escape from the real world.”

The Prairie du Chien school’s production of “The Hobbit” will run from April 11–13 at 7 p.m. plus a matinee on Saturday, April 13, at 1 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door.

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