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The season’s last laugh TYA performs comedic rendition of an English classic

The Theatre for Young Audiences will present its final fall production, “The Hobbit” by Patricia Gray at the Albert L. Jeffers Theatre on the Edinburg campus Thursday through Sunday.

Before UTRGV opened, one of its legacy schools, the University of Texas Pan American, performed plays for children until 2002–where UTPA offered a separate season. TYA’s first performance was the fall production of “A Christmas Carol” by Brian Warren, a creative drama/theater for youth specialist as well as the founder. Since then, TYA hit the road to local elementary schools for about 30 plays, including Dan Donahue’s versions of “Cinderella” and “Little Red Riding Hood.”

For this semester, TYA had a wide range of plays to choose from, but kept in mind the variety and creativity it can offer to the community.

“We find it very rewarding to be able to tap into the imagination of young kids and the audience in general,” Warren said. “As kids, they love to pretend–so why not give them a taste of what they like?”

UTRGV senior Kanea MacDonald is the director of “The Hobbit.” MacDonald has been working alongside Warren on many different levels, from assistant director for other UTRGV productions to instructor for the children’s theater camp.

With “The Hobbit” being her fifth time to direct a play alone, MacDonald keeps in mind that the Jeffers Theatre is what most film professionals and enthusiasts refer to as a thrust-style stage, in which the audience surrounds the stage on more than one side as opposed to a proscenium, where the audience is directly in front of the stage.

“This is a big thing I have to watch out for … along with the voice, considering articulation and projection, as well as other basic acting tools,” the 21-year-old said. “[And to] break the actors’ habit of always facing relatively the same way.”

Theater performance junior Johnathan Tamez will be playing Gandalf. Tamez got the role during a series of improv games where MacDonald would tell the participants what to do–similar to seeing whether the actors were able to adapt to different acting scenarios on command.

“It wasn’t until close to the very end that she actually had us read certain parts and one of the parts she had me read was Gandalf and I’m guessing based on how I did she thought, ‘Oh, he should be Gandalf,’” Tamez, 22, said. “He’s a character that has a lot of power, or authority, in a sense.”

Tamez’s passion for acting stems from taking drama class in middle and high schools. However, he said theater wasn’t taken as seriously during primary education because it wasn’t a passion of theirs. However, when he began college, fellow theater majors shared the same enthusiasm and vigor that took theater to a whole new level for Tamez. His role as Gandalf will be Tamez’s first ever play performance for the university.

“It is a bit nerve-racking because not only is it the audience, but it’s also the faculty,” he said. “In a sense, it’s kind of my introduction since it’s my first performance, so [the faculty] probably still sees me as the new guy.”

The play has a playful feel to it; that way, audience members can join the actors on stage in the world of imagination.

“I hope that we are able to … inspire creativity in the minds of audience members of all ages,” MacDonald said. “Hopefully, [it] gets kids excited about theater and storytelling, encouraging them to put the cell phones down and go play outside. Play dress-up, play pretend. Create. The same can be said for adults, who tend to get that spirit squashed somewhere in the process of becoming ‘grown-ups.’”

“The Hobbit” is scheduled at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. General admission is $3 per person.

For more information or special accommodations, call the box office manager, Elva Galvan, at 665-3581.

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