WAIMEA — The Waimea Community Theatre is leaving its hobbit hole in Kohala for an adventure around the Big Island.
Directed by Rich Givens, the theater company’s latest production, “The Hobbit,” premiered last weekend at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea. This weekend, the play makes its way to Aloha Theatre in Kainaliu for 7 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday, and a 2 p.m. show Sunday. On Aug. 11, the theatre will perform a doubleheader of the play at the University of Hawaii-Hilo Performing Arts Center, beginning at 1 p.m.
Based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit” tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit in the fictional world of Middle Earth, who takes on the dragon Smaug with the help of a band of dwarves and the wizard Gandalf.
“He’s one of those characters that is a real hero that stays with you,” Joziah Chelminiak said. “A real protagonist that you can feel like, not just in the story but in life, you want to be him. He’s one of those characters that you can relate to and really connect with.”
Chelminiak plays the reluctant protagonist in his debut play. The first-time actor said he has always been interested in acting and was just waiting for an opportunity to start with familiar source material.
“They decided to do ‘The Hobbit,’ and I jumped on board and auditioned,” Chelminiak said. “I must have knocked it out of the park, because here I am as Bilbo Baggins.”
Despite his rookie status, playing the role of Bilbo came naturally to Chelminiak.
“He’s a lot like me,” Chelminiak said of the character Bilbo. “I feel it’s really easy to act when it’s someone you relate to a lot. It’s easier to play them, because it’s really like you’re the one up there.”
Chelminiak isn’t the only new talent on stage for “The Hobbit.” Three other major roles — Gandalf, Gollum and the storyteller — are all played by fresh faces to the Big Island theater scene.
Gollum is played by 13-year-old Iwalani Mehau, who has had a connection with the character for most of Mehau’s life.
“It’s kind of funny. Throughout my entire life, usually every Christmas, (my family) would watch ‘Lord of the Rings,’ and everyone would call me Gollum. I don’t know why I guess because I have big eyes or something,” Mehau said. “So when I heard they were doing ‘The Hobbit’ I thought it would be really fun to try it.”
Being a part of a play has its challenges too. Mehau said the most difficult part is playing someone like the character of Gollum, which is far from Mehau’s normal personality. For Noelle Quijano, who plays the storyteller, her character requires the actress to be on stage the entire play and to have a speaking role in every scene.
“The most difficult thing leading up to opening night is learning an extraordinary amount of lines,” Quijano said. “It’s a lot of lines.”
Steve Chelminiak, who plays Gandalf, said everyone was encouraging through rehearsals, and working with Waimea Community Theatre has been like working with “a big family.” The play’s more of a family affair than usual, as Steve Chelminiak’s son is Joziah Chelminiak.
“Gandalf and Bilbo have that kind of relationship,” Steve Chelminiak said. “He’s looking after him the whole time and just sees the special person there that’s going to save everybody. And it’s kind of like my relationship with my son. …For us, I couldn’t think of a nicer experience together, being on the stage together.”
Info: Tickets for “The Hobbit” at Aloha Theatre this weekend are $13/$20/$25, and can be purchased at apachawaii.org or at the Aloha Theatre ticket office in Kainaliu.