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The show must go on at Fairfield high schools

Will Powers is Gandalf and James Purcell is Bilbo in the Fairfield Ludlowe High School proudction of The Hobbit.

Will Powers is Gandalf and James Purcell is Bilbo in the Fairfield Ludlowe High School proudction of The Hobbit.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and an unexpected snowstorm, Fairfield Ludlowe High School’s drama department scrambled to catch up on rehearsals for its upcoming production of The Hobbit.

Performances are Friday, Nov. 30, at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 1, at 2 and 8 p.m. in the Fairfield Ludlowe auditorium. Tickets are $8.

Director Frances R. Kondziela describes The Hobbit: Live on Stage as a “great adventure story.” The play is based on the classic novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, and Kondziela pointed out parallels between the play’s themes and New England’s recent tumultuous weather. Like the main character, Bilbo Baggins, local families were forced to call upon their inner wisdom to cope with the storm’s destruction.

James Purcell plays Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit at Fairfield Ludlowe High School this weekend.

James Purcell plays Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit at Fairfield Ludlowe High School this weekend.

“Bilbo Baggins is a wonderful character,” Kondziela said. “He is someone to whom we can all relate, an everyman character who is just sitting home, enjoying the quiet peace and pleasures of his life when a Wizard and 13 dwarfs arrive asking for his help. He makes the choice to help and as a result realizes his potential in an amazing way.”

Additionally, Kondziela said, she is proud of the way her young actors and members of the show’s technical crew were able to “weather a hurricane named Sandy and a nameless nor’easter.”

“Through it all, the Fairfield Ludlowe High School Drama Club has shown outstanding dedication and commitment, proving that ‘we will not merely endure, we will prevail,’ to paraphrase Faulkner’s Nobel speech,” Kondziela said. “The Hobbit is dedicated to the strength and resiliency of people, especially those in the path of life’s hurricanes.”

Despite a brief hiatus in the production’s rehearsals, the cast is excited for the curtain to rise this weekend. Kondziela said she chose this play because young people are “enthralled” by Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

All tickets are only $8 and are available at the door. For reservations or more information, email Fran Kondziela at fkondziela@fairfieldschools or call 203-255-7201.

Even though Fairfield Warde High School’s Drama Department also lost a week and a half of rehearsals, cast members worked hard to unveil a moving interpretation of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town last weekend. Under the leadership of director Mark Frattaroli, the performance went on as scheduled despite school closings.

“The production went extremely well,” Frattaroli noted. “It was better than I anticipated. We had full houses, and each performance got progressively better.”

Fairfield Warde senior Kat Newquist, who played Emily, the female lead, credits Frattaroli with pulling the show together in the shortened rehearsal period.

“Mr. Fratt is incredible,” she said. “The play itself is wonderful and different than anything I’ve ever done before, and my fellow actors were just amazing. … We became a theater family in the truest sense of the term. Despite the hurricane, despite the blizzard, despite any other setbacks or obstacles, I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything in the world.”

Kat said students got together to rehearse twice a day on the days school were closed.

“We went over lines in my living room,” she said.

Though there was still much to be done once rehearsals resumed, Frattaroli was pleased by his self-directed young actors.

“When they came back, they were in very good shape,” Frattaroli said.

Even so, he admitted there were elements of the production that he would have liked to work on if he had more time. For example, there wasn’t enough time to paint some of the set pieces and stage floor.

Also, had it not been for the assistance of parent volunteer Diane Reuter, some of the costumes might not have been up to par.

Kudos were also given to the lighting crew for Our Town.

“[The production] wasn’t really all good to go until opening night,” Frattaroli said. “But it went off without a hitch all three times. And Our Town is a hard play.”

Barring unseasonable weather, the Warde Drama Department’s spring musical hopes to follow a more relaxed production schedule. Frattaroli said he’s hoping to obtain the rights to produce the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical classic The Sound of Music.

“I wanted to do something lighter and familiar,” he said.

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