Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

A Tolkien mood

I used to think J.R.R. Tolkien's last name was pronounced "Toll-Kine." I only heard his name said aloud once in my youth, by a high school symphony leader when he introduced a performance of Johan de Meij's Lord of the Rings: Symphony No. 1. I plead (once upon a time) ignorance. I caught up. First tried reading Tolkien, starting with The Hobbit, in college in 1996, though I slowed down and lost the thread of it about halfway through The Two Towers. (Odd what I remembered and didn't; years later, I'd managed to forget the existence in the books of Ents, but I clearly remember reading of the aftermath of their attack on Isengard. I remembered the tower being damaged, but not why.) And I later finally read the whole series in conjunction with Peter Jackson's adaptations, reading each book after its corresponding movie had come out.

Today was a day for Tolkien. Not only pronounced correctly, but spoken and sung correctly. The Willamette Radio Workshop did its annual live reading of highlights of The Hobbit at McMenamin's Kennedy School, one part of the hotel/pub's birthday celebration for the author. The group (which includes David Loftus, a local actor/writer/tour guide I'm acquainted with) performs it as a radio play, with Foley artists making sound effects with bag-shaking, balloon-rubbing, and even bubble-wrap-popping.

The book's divided into multiple scenes; the group let kids in attendance pick scene numbers out of a hat, so by random chance the opening of the book where Bilbo Baggins meets the dwarves was followed by the late-in-the book battle against Smaug over Laketown, followed by Bilbo and Gollum's riddle battle halfway through. The performance itself was split into two halves, with a costume contest in between, because dressing up as Tolkien characters is fun. (And warm when it's cold. Only his orcs and trolls seem to have skimpy garb.)

I got to see both halves, enthusiatically covering a decent number of highlights of the book. My friend Riona, a Firefly fan with whom I've played Geek Trivia, got to see the first half. She in fact was the one who suggested I go to this; she attends each year and has met the Workshop actors (she also enjoyed their performance last October of War of the Worlds). Beforehand, we had a nice lunch in the school's restaurant, with Lord of the Rings-themed (well, named) food. I had a nice and filling Miss Maggot's Cottage Pie, for example. It was a good catch-up visit; we hadn't seen each other in a while, especially since I can't go to Geek Trivia right now. She dressed in her Ren Faire garb, to look vaguely Tolkien-ish and because she wanted a chance to wear it in the winter. I suggested she enter the contest and claim to be Rosie Cotton, Samwise's wife.

A few hours of Tolkien. I could've had even more; the Kennedy School theater showed all three Lord of the Rings films starting this morning. Instead I wandered a bit of NE Portland, going down to Alberta to see the calm night life there, then because I knew it'd be a warm place with wifi, a bus from NE Portland to SW Portland and Oregon Health and Science University. I hung out for an hour or so, warming up next to a fire in OHSU's lobby. I am the sort who goes to a hospital for non-emergency reasons, just to hang out. (And it is where I used to work, so I'm pretty comfortable there.)

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