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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 13, 2024


Okay, I'm a sucker for kids in plays. But "The Hobbit" is enjoyable as a play, too, for the fun of the players, and seeing it performed at Pistarckle Theater proved to be an interesting way to spend the evening.
For me, it all goes back to my childhood in Santa Barbara, where I was a member of the Children's Theater, Opera Guild, Alacama Players and any and every group that came along needing members in the chorus. From playing the captain in "River Boat," a fisherman in "Carousel," a fruit peddler in "La Boheme," and multiple characters in Gilbert and Sullivan, I got a charge putting on and taking off grease paint.
The theater is even better than reading books and daydreaming.You actually get to dress up, make up and take on someone else's identity. Then, after a short period of vicarious living, you step back into your own life renewed and rewarded by praise for a job well done.
Unlike many in the audience at the new Pistarckle Theater in Tillett Gardens Friday night, my wife and I didn't have a child or even a relative in the production. We simply went to enjoy an evening watching a dozen young people enjoy themselves after several weeks intensive study of theater craft.
"The Hobbit" is a fantasy which begins with a bored hobbit looking for adventure. Now a hobbit is defined by its creator, J.R.R. Tolkien, as a small, humanistic creature with many rabbit-like characteristics. This particular hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is visited by a wizard who hears of his boredom and dispatches Bilbo off on an adventure with a playful group of dwarfs.
The hobbit is given the task of stealing a treasure on a magic mountain reigned over by a elfin queen and guarded by trolls and a dragon. Despite several misadventures along the way, the treasure is found, and everyone has a good time.
Several of the players in this group were involved in Pistarckle's first children's summer theater production, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which was performed a year ago in the open air at Coral World. While last year's production was interesting in its use of Coral World's amphitheater, this year's production takes place in what might pass as a real theater.
The Tillett Gardens complex space, newly refurbished by the Pistarckle people, is a well air-conditioned hall complete with sound/light booth, indoor seating and lots of beams from which to hang lights. This facility gives the players a more traditional setting to work in and the audience more comfort to watch from. The bar was working fine, too, although they need more bartenders during intermission when there is a crowd.
Very strong characterizations were given by Torii Kappelman as Bilbo and Danielle Comissiong as the queen of the elves. I am totally in awe of anyone who can memorize anything longer than their telephone number, and Torii rattles off lines like she breathes air. Danielle didn't begin to have the quantity of lines of many of the players, but she made up for it with the sparkle and verve of her delivery. There was no question in anyone's mind that these two young ladies were doing something they loved – and, in turn, the audience loved them for it.
It was interesting to find good friend Walt Julio from St. Croix helping out with the sound and ligthing. I got to know Walt first when he worked with troubled children, then as a policeman, and finally as an emergency responder for the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency. When I heard he had volunteered a week of his life to come to St. Thomas and teach lighting and stage managing based on a lifetime of involvement in the theater, it seemed only natural. Every now and then you find people like Walt in small communities, and they really make a difference in our quality of life.
So, if you are free Saturday at 8 p.m. or Sunday afternoon at 2, seriously consider dropping by Tillett Gardens. The theater seats about 125 people. Given the structure's intimacy, excellent use of the interior space for staging, and the resonating quality of the children's voices, almost any seat is a good seat. Tickets are $15 general admission and $10 for those 12 and under.
Did you know Kelsey Grammer ("Cheers," "Frasier") is a St. Thomian? Could one of the Pistarckle kids be in line for an Emmy in the near future?

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