By Chris Olson
From time to time, Colorado State University’s theatre program brings in working professionals to be in residence on campus and direct a show. This gives students a chance to work with a professional in their prospective industry, and to get a glimpse what life will be like in the ‘real world.’ This season, The Hobbit was chosen to be directed by one of these special guest artists.
Introducing: Rob Lauer
Lauer is a writer, director, and producer currently based in Virginia. When he was a child, he knew he wanted to be a director after watching Walt Disney and the movies he made. He loved the Disney movies and said he wanted to be the one who decided how the stories were told.
As a professional, Lauer spends most of his time directing a couple of regional television programs near Virginia, and recently completed a writing commission to pen a musical focusing on the Cherokee Native Americans.
So how did he wind up coming to CSU?
Lauer met interim chair of the theatre program, Price Johnston, shortly after Johnston finished his graduate work at University of Florida. When one of Johnston’s professors was working on a show in Georgia, they were in need of a director. He called up Lauer who took the job. Lauer said it was Johnston, not the professor, that he was drawn to.
“I actually ended up being more impressed with Price’s work than his professor,” Lauer said. “So Price asked me if he ever needed a director, would I be interested, and of course I said yes.”
Once the program at CSU decided to take on this famous story, they knew who to call.
“I had been writing so much [for the Cherokee musical] that I was anxious to get back into directing live theatre,” Lauer said.
Coming to CSU gave Lauer that chance, but he admits it is also quite different from the environment in which he’s used to working. For The Hobbit, most of the actors and designers are students. Virtually the entire production team is still learning and honing their craft. This is, therefore, where Lauer’s experience really comes in handy.
“One of the biggest differences [between the professional world and the college theatre,] is that this is a learning experience instead of a business,” he explained. “This whole thing is a learning process for the students. Every aspect of the show is about the students.”
“You can’t fire a student,” Lauer quipped. “But in all seriousness, I’m very impressed with the designers’ ambitions, and I’m impressed with a lot of the actors at CSU.”
Lauer’s background as a playwright has been invaluable to the process, as well. In order to create a well-flowing story that remains interesting to the audience, he has had to make a few re-writes as rehearsals have gone along.
“You have to immerse yourself into the script. The play’s the thing and the script is the Bible,” he said. “I’ve just been working on cutting the parts of the show that might be cliché and weak.”
So, with his help, the CSU theatre program is readying itself to transform the University Theatre into Tolkien’s middle earth. The production is about to start cue-to-cue rehearsals, where the technical aspects of the show are introduced for the first time. There’s much work to do but Lauer is confident that everything will come together in the end to create a wonderfully magical story.
The Hobbit by Patricia Gray, Directed by Rob Lauer
Nightly: April 23, 24, 25, 26, 30, May 1, 2, 3, 7:30 p.m.
Matinees: April 25, 26, May 2, 3, 2 p.m.
Talk Back with the director and designers immediately following the April 23 and 26 evening performances
Ticket Thursdays: FREE/CSU Students: Apr. 23 & 30
Fort Fund Tickets (Sundays): FREE/Community Members: Apr. 26 & May 3
CSU Alumni: Opening night reduced adult ticket price with promotional code and Talk Back with director following the April 23 performance. Read more.
Graduating Seniors: Show your cap & gown receipt and receive a $5 student ticket to a Friday performance (April 24 & May 1). Must be redeemed in person at the Box Office.
Come in Costume: Wear your favorite Tolkien-inspired (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings) costume and receive either a half-priced adult ticket ($9) or a $5 student ticket. Must be redeemed in person at the Box Office. All weapons must be peace-bladed/dulled. No functional weapons allowed.
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