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The Community Players' theater will be transformed into Middle-earth — the Shire and Smaug's Lair included — for its Acting Up production of "The Hobbit."

The stage adaption of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien prequel to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy opens this Friday and stars local students from fifth-eighth grade as part of the theater's Acting Up program.

Tyler Rinne, Community Players' associate artistic director and the show's director, said he wanted to try something different with this production.

"We do a lot of silly shows and we do a lot of fairy tales," Rinne said. "...I just wanted to do something a little bit more challenging and a different type of story for Acting Up specifically, so it was a good opportunity to do that with a show that a lot of people recognize."

Acting Up began in 2011 as part of the theater's focus on educational outreach and is targeted at students in fifth-eighth grade. Productions are staged each semester. 

'The Hobbit,' tells the story of the titular character Bilbo Baggins, who is unexpectedly visited in his pastoral Shire home by the wizard Gandalf and a gang of dwarfs. What follows is a fantasy journey filled with dragons, trolls, treasure and, of course, a ring. 

Rinne said the stage adaption stays mostly faithful to Tolkien's book except with a slightly different ending and more centralized conflict.

"It's got a lot of adventure in it, a lot fun characters with the dwarfs and the hobbit himself and a giant dragon," said Rinne. "It's a great adventure story that the really young or the really old can enjoy."

Eighth-grader Nolan Marlatt, who stars as Bilbo, said the role is one of his favorites. 

"It's such a different character," he said. "This one has a lot of layers and I just think that's really cool."

Sixth-grader Monet Baehr plays a jumpy, excited dwarf. Even though she hasn't read the book or seen the movie, she said she's having a lot of fun with this play.

"I like how everyone can have fun with it and I like how everyone gets to be their own little character," Baehr said. 

The stage features a hobbit hole, which also later serves as a jail cell and the lair of Smaug, the imposing dragon of the tale. Mandy VanLaningham created a dragon prop for the show, according to Rinne.

"The Hobbit" opens Friday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. with additional performances Nov. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. 

Tickets can be purchases at the box office, 412 Ella St., Beatrice, which is open weekdays from noon to 5:30 p.m. or two hours prior to performances. Reservations can also be made by calling 402-228-1801 or online at

Rinne encourages anyone who wants tickets to act quickly as they are selling fast. As of Wednesday afternoon, around half of the seats were available for Friday's and Saturday's showings with plenty remaining for Sunday's.

Marlatt hopes everyone can find something to enjoy in the play.

"I think everybody has a lot of fun with this show and there's definitely a lot of energy throughout," he said. "No matter what, you're going to have a fun time."

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