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A few thoughts on The Gathering

In my last post I said I was going to try to share a report of The Gathering of the Fellowship... well, here we go.

As I said previously, it was particularly wonderful to meet at last valancourtbooks, nekrokedeia, estellye, bellatook, and many other friends, and to spend time with lizzieausten and share her birthday celebration.

Beyond my talks and panels, all of which were great experiences for me, and the debut/signing of The Magic Ring, there were many other highlights for me at The Gathering, and here are just a few of them:

* Hearing Giuseppe Festa and Lingalad perform not once, but twice.
* Seeing Mike Foster interview M. Colin Havard (the son of Dr. Robert "Humphrey" Havard, who was the personal doctor of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and also an Inkling) about his personal memories of Tolkien and Lewis.
* Meeting for the first time people I have long admired, such as scholars Colin Duriez and Marcel Bülles and artist Jef Murray, and seeing others again, such as scholar Michael Drout and artist Ted Nasmith.
* Participating in the filming of an episode of the new series Collector Showdown. My part was limited, but it took a little over two hours to film: I introduced the concept of fantasy, explained its literary and cinematic background, and provided the context for the subject of fantasy collecting. Also, I contributed most of the trivia questions used during the trivia competition and then served as judge for the creative competition. The director and producer made great use of the fans and guests at The Gathering, and I look forward to seeing how the episode appears in its final cut. The show will air this fall in the U.S. and Canada.



The Lord of the Rings on Stage
I went into The Lord of the Rings on Stage thinking that there was no possible way for any three-and-a-half-hour production, musical or no, to capture the full story of all three books of The Lord of the Rings, or even provide a taste of the story's complexity, much less manage to present the narrative in a manner that wouldn't leave newcomers to Tolkien completely dazed and confused. I was right. And yet, I really enjoyed the production. Really.

The musical had its problems. Gandalf represented at least half a dozen of them. Extremely poor timing led him to rush important lines, emphasize inappropriate ones, and consistently cut off other actors or spoil their comic/dramatic moments. I half hoped the production had altered the storyline to the degree that Gandalf might not return from his fall in Moria, but we had no such luck. He returned, with perhaps even less warmth and empathy than he'd previously possessed. Other problems were also present, including an odd setting for Gondor with miniature white buildings that reminded me of the unfortunately tiny Stonehenge in Spinal Tap, and rushed staging for Gollum's fall, which sacrificed much of the dramatic impact of the ring's final destruction.

Yet the successes were stunning. Rebecca Jackson Mendoza (a.k.a. the Princess of Alderaan in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith) made a remarkable Galadriel, and her sequence with the song "Wonder" left me with cold chills. Peter van Gestel's Samwise Gamgee was, like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every possible way. I liked how the costuming and set design drew from different world cultures. The choreography was fantastic, the staging at times breathtaking (especially Helm's Deep and Sam's rescue of Frodo in the Orc Tower), and all of the creatures - the Orcs, the Balrog, and Shelob, for example - were beautifully rendered. (I lost a few months from my life span when I first recognized Shelob and saw her move.) And perhaps most importantly, they included the Scouring of the Shire! I am saddened that there isn't yet an original cast soundtrack; my understanding is that one will be recorded when the production moves to London. I'll be buying it when it's available.

It certainly wasn't a thorough retelling of the story (who ever really thought that could be done in this format?), but for those of us who know and love The Lord of the Rings, it revisited some of our favorite moments in style, at times with real insight. I would love to see it again. I recommend it to anyone who can catch it in either Toronto or London.




Bonding with Gamling and Haldir
One of my happy duties at The Gathering (thanks to the support of so many of you) was to accept the Imperishable Flame Award for Tolkien/Inklings Scholarship on my own behalf, and the Award for Creative Achievement on behalf of Glass Hammer. The V.I.P. reception began so well, though, I almost hated interrupting the fun conversations with a boring awards ceremony.

I needn't have worried. Lord of the Rings actors Bruce Hopkins (Gamling) and Craig Parker (Haldir) were the Masters of Ceremony. And they like to make people laugh.

What could've been a tedious event became something much more befitting a party. My award was announced first, and Bruce H. ran from the stage to offer me his arm and escort me to the podium. It soon became apparent that the podium was nearly as tall as I am; Craig P. made a great show of fetching a chair and helping me to stand on it. He then went on to illustrate the "Imperishable Flame" with his cigarette lighter every time I mentioned the phrase in my acceptance speech. He went down on his knees to offer me my award, and then I was kindly escorted back by Bruce H.

When it was time for Glass Hammer's award, Bruce returned and danced -- yes, danced -- me to the podium. When we made it onstage, he started to dip me (or so I thought at the time), and the next thing I knew, we were both horizontal on the stage behind the podium and tables, hidden from the audience. He stuck his feet in the air and made all kinds of silly snogging sounds (looking absolutely goofy the entire time) while I rolled around, helpless with laughter. Finally, we got to our feet, and I righted my dress and hair. Craig put me up on the chair once again, and I managed to read Glass Hammer's beautiful acceptance speech (once again with Craig on cigarette lighter duty). When that was done, I was danced back to my place. I ended up with two awards in hand, about half a dozen Elvish-and-Rohirric kisses on the cheeks, and a lot of laughs.

Good fun all the way around.


Huge thanks to Anthony and Jessica of Heren Istarion, and Ed Rodrigues of The Gathering, and their tremendous staff of volunteers for packing the convention with wonderful memories.


Some of my favorite quotes overheard at The Gathering:

"I like to think of it as mithril rather than chainmail."
"Hobbits wobble but they don't fall down."
"I think you left your ears in my room."
"There's always the Toronto Rent-A-Kilt."

Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 8th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
Ha! Thanks. It was loads of fun.
ithildyn
Jul. 7th, 2006 11:24 pm (UTC)
That was a great story [snicker] I'm glad you had such a wonderful time!
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 8th, 2006 06:25 pm (UTC)
LOL! Thanks so much. :)
_snitchbitch
Jul. 8th, 2006 12:14 am (UTC)
Aw, I would have loved to have been there. Bruce & Craig sound lovely :)
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 8th, 2006 06:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, they were both as sweet as can be.
faramirgirl
Jul. 8th, 2006 01:29 am (UTC)
((((((eldritchhobbit))))) glad that you had fun and got to meet some of the Lord of the Rings stars, and some people from here on LJ.
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 8th, 2006 06:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! (((((FG)))))
bellatook
Jul. 8th, 2006 01:42 am (UTC)
**Hugs you very, very tightly** It was an extreme pleasure to be in your astounding presence. You are a brilliant scholar, very well spoken and an all around blast to be around. Your escapades with Bruce and Craig were hilarious! And you took it all in stride. Me, I would have been stuck on the floor in fits of giggles. I loved your presentation "Your Dwarves Don't Dance and Your Elves Don't Rock-n-Roll" It was totally wicked! I am now going to be searching for some of those artists, as well as being one of the many to purchase Lingalad's CDs. Although I only bought 2 of them. We will meet again, I have no doubt and it will be just as fun and interesting.

**Hugs you again**
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 8th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
You are so incredibly kind! *huge hugs* Thank you so much. It was such a thrill to get to meet you (finally!), and I can't thank you enough for being so encouraging and supportive. Thanks for putting up with the awards silliness (!!!). I'm thrilled that you enjoyed the music talk; you've made my day! I'm already looking forward to meeting up with you again. I'm so glad you had a good time at The Gathering! *more hugs*
agentxpndble
Jul. 8th, 2006 01:42 am (UTC)
Hearing Giuseppe Festa and Lingalad perform not once, but twice.

Oh wow! I know how much you love him!

Craig P. made a great show of fetching a chair and helping me to stand on it.

LOL! It sounds like it was a *blast*!

and the next thing I knew, we were both horizontal on the stage behind the podium and tables, hidden from the audience.

Mhuahaha! Sounds... Sure. Sounds. :)))

:::HUGS::: It sounds *wonderful*!
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 8th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
LOL! *hugs back* It was fantastic - ranging from the silly to the sublime, as it were. :)
elicia8
Jul. 8th, 2006 02:35 am (UTC)
What a story! The image of you, Bruce, and Craig together is hysterical.

Oh, and I (finally!) preordered my copy of the Magic Ring. If I send it to you when it comes in, will you sign it for me?
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 8th, 2006 06:30 pm (UTC)
LOL! Thanks.

Oh, and I would be honored to sign your copy! Thank you SO much for ordering one! I truly hope you will enjoy it. *huge hugs*
estellye
Jul. 9th, 2006 02:29 am (UTC)
I just got back having made a little side journey to NYC after the Gathering. I had a great time in Toronto and NY! I was on the Upper West Side by the park and I was thinking of Thoth playing and singing there. I have been walking around with Giuseppe singing in my head almost constantly and my first order of business when I got on my computer was to upload the Lingalad CD's to my iTunes.

I know we were all kept very busy with all the fantastic programming, particularly you and the other stalwart guests, but I would have loved an hour or two to chat over coffee or drinks. Hopefully we'll have another opportunity some time in the future. It was so nice to meet you!

Your talks and panels were fun and so interesting! I heard many of the attendees discussing the high quality of the programming in general and many of them mentioned you in particular. I told those who are on LJ to check you out here. I have begun reading "The Magic Ring" and it's completely enchanting.

I agree with your observations about "The Lord of the Rings" on stage. Galadriel was enthralling and Sam was perfect. The talent of the actor playing Gollum was under-utilized in my opinion and I found the Mt. Doom scene anticlimactic as well. Saruman as Sharky was fun to see. I also noticed that many of the things that they didn't have time to address thoroughly, they tried to show with little moments. The relationship between Legolas and Gimli and the relationship between Merry and Theodan were examples. The mention of Tom Bombadil out of the blue at the end was sort of annoying, but it may have been the delivery. I also think Aragorn was just a bit too gleeful to be the king. Over all however it was enjoyable and I'd buy the soundtrack for Galadriel alone.

You, Craig and Bruce at the presentation of the Imperishable Flame awards was among the many fun moments brought to us courtesy of those two very charming men. When you popped up fussing with your dress I thought I was going to die, lol! Way to roll with the moment!

I guess in the next couple of days I will need to do a Gathering entry of my own, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to chime in on yours! (((((Amy))))) Thanks for your large role in making the Gathering a great success! *more hugs*
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 9th, 2006 05:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the lovely reply! *huge, huge hugs* I agree with you about getting together just to visit. I felt like I didn't really have a chance to chat with anyone, and I really wanted to get to talk to you face to face! It was wonderful to see you, but I wanted more! Let's compare notes about upcoming events; surely our paths with cross again soon. *fingers crossed* You are such a sweetie!

Thanks so much for your kind words, and for pointing others to my LJ. I am thrilled that you're liking The Magic Ring so far. (I absolutely fell in love with it.) By the way, I've just reposted the music mix I made while working on it, in case you're interested.

The talent of the actor playing Gollum was under-utilized in my opinion

Excellent point! He was terrific. I was amazed how he could maintain the intensity of his inner dialogue between Stinker and Slinker, but he did. I would've liked to have seen more of him, especially at the end!

Saruman as Sharky was fun to see.

Yes! That actor had such presence. (Though his hair reminded me of Emperor Ming from Flash Gordon! LOL.)

I also noticed that many of the things that they didn't have time to address thoroughly, they tried to show with little moments.

You're exactly right. I think that helped make it feel like a loving tribute to the books, even though large parts of the plot, by necessity, had to be condensed. It was clear the writers knew their stuff.

I also think Aragorn was just a bit too gleeful to be the king.

LOL! Good point. He gave me a few "Dude, Where's My Kingdom?" moments. :) I thought Boromir's death was handled beautifully, too, but then it creeped me out how the scene turned into an Aragorn/Arwen moment, right next to Boromir's dead body. Ew! *giggle*

Over all however it was enjoyable and I'd buy the soundtrack for Galadriel alone.

Yes! I second that, absolutely!

Weren't Bruce and Craig amazing, the entire time? I was impressed by how tireless and accessible they were. And their humor helped make the reception and the banquet lots of fun. Thanks for your kind words about how I "rolled with it" - really, it happened so fast, I was just doing my best to keep up. :)

One of the things I was most looking forward to was meeting you, and I'm so glad I got to do so. You are as lovely in person as I imagined you'd be. I really do look forward to getting to talk "live" with you more - soon, I hope! *huge, huge hugs*
semielliptical
Jul. 10th, 2006 12:31 am (UTC)
Sounds like you had such a fabulous time! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on The Lord of the Rings on Stage. I guess I need to figure out if I'm going to try to fit a trip to Toronto into my schedule so I can see it...
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 10th, 2006 01:05 pm (UTC)
You're most welcome! I'm so glad it was useful. I know I'd love to see the musical again - if you can work it into your schedule, I recommend it! :)
fungus_files
Jul. 12th, 2006 12:37 am (UTC)
I half hoped the production had altered the storyline to the degree that Gandalf might not return from his fall in Moria, but we had no such luck

LOL. I loved this comment. Not being a big fan of musical stage-shows, I would probably give it a miss, except that your comments re Gandalf make me want to see just how far his performance fell into shadow.

And mucking around with Haldir?! OMG. *turns green*
eldritchhobbit
Jul. 13th, 2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
your comments re Gandalf make me want to see just how far his performance fell into shadow

I kept waiting for someone to grab his walking staff and use it on him to deliver a smackdown.

And mucking around with Haldir?! OMG. *turns green*

LOL! I just posted a few pictures and links to others. He was so funny!
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )

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