StoryBook Theatre gives green light for child-friendly production of popular book

StoryBook Theatre is taking on some grim themes in its production of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

The theatre group creates child-friendly performances, but with this month’s offering, production manager Jolene Anderson says the group is hoping the darker themes appeal not just to children, but to adults as well.

 Anderson is convinced most eight year olds will enjoy the play, but not all will be able to handle the subject matter, which is why she reminds parents to think about how their children might react to sword fights and shouting antagonists.

“We’re going to keep with the story which means some of it’s scary, and some of it’s exciting. There will be fighting, and adventure, and laughter. So it’s going to have a bit of everything,” she says.

Jacob performs as Bilbo, which he has been practicing for six days a week for the past month.

Photo by Caroline Fyvie & Melissa KadeyJacob Lesiuk, who stars as Bilbo Baggins, says this play was written by playwright Kim Selody about 15 years ago, and is considered a children’s play.

Laughing and waving his hands in the air, he says, “It’s not like, ‘Hey kids, woo!’ It’s not happy and nice. There’s always terrifying times, and happy times,” says Lesiuk.

The play is not a re-creation of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films.The film series was rated PG and up, and received cautions on some family movie review sites. 

Anderson says StoryBook works hard to keep its material family friendly.

“Our whole audience is very important. If a show has too many dark themes or something that children might not understand, [we look at] how we make that happen, how can we brighten it up? How can we still tell the story, but make it so the children will understand,” she says.

Produced by: Caroline Fyvie and Melissa Kadey

Anderson says sometimes they get negative feedback from audience members. For example, in one survey, parents complained about rough language. Anderson says the words in question — stupid and dumb — supported the message in the play that bullying is wrong and these words are hurtful. But she says most realize rough scenes are meant to encourage a dialogue between adults and children.

StoryBook Theatre operates out of a northwest Calgary community centre in Beddington.

Previous productions include Busytown, New Canadian Kid, and Hairspray.

The Hobbit runs Feb. 6–22. Tickets for this two-hour production are $20 for children, $25 for adults. Family passes are also available.

mkadey@cjournal.ca