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Q & A with Bilbo Baggins

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The Beacon caught up with Aaron Denlinger, who played Bilbo in the stage production of "The Hobbit" at Bethel College. Were you surprised that you were cast as Bilbo? How did that come about? I was surprised just to be cast in the show!  I love the book and really wanted just to be a part of the play, but I went into auditions not knowing if I'd be able to.  I have two night classes this semester, which conflict with rehearsals, and I told the director that I wasn't sure if I'd be able to work around them.  That, combined with the fact that I'm not a theatre major, convinced me that there was a very slim chance I'd even be offered a part.  Fortunately, my professors were understanding and I was able to make those classes work for me without having to drop them.  But because of that uncertainty, I went through auditions hoping just to have a bit part, and the next day I was called back along with three other people to read for the part of Bilbo.  But even then I never guessed I would get it.  Reading my name on the cast list was a complete shock, and I was thrilled. What were the biggest challenges you faced playing that role? I actually found that I could relate to the character of Bilbo quite well, so he was a relatively easy part to play.  Being the lead character was intimidating and not something I'm used to, and that demanded a lot of time and dedication to learn the lines and remain in that character the whole way through, because Bilbo's story really carries the play.  However, this might sound strange, but at no point during the rehearsals did I feel like I was the lead, which actually helped a lot because Bilbo isn't a leader in the story.  Thorin and Gandalf do the leading, and Bilbo follows helplessly along.  Because I didn't feel like the lead, it made it easier to play that dynamic of the character, and I also wasn't as daunted by the role. What did you enjoy most about acting in "The Hobbit"? That's a tough one.  I got to do so much with the part of Bilbo!  The role had silly, comedic scenes as well as tense, dramatic scenes.  I got to start off the play as a bumbling, nervous character afraid of anything outside his door, and progress that character all the way to the point of boldly standing up against a dragon.  It had a wide range of emotions and that made the part a lot of fun!  Also, I got a sword! Which scene(s) were your favorite, and why? Easy.  Gollum.  Even as a kid, that scene really stuck out to me in the book.  It is such a memorable scene, and a great turning point for Bilbo as a character, where he can suddenly no longer rely on Gandalf or the dwarves to save him and must face this creature on his own.  He's betting his life against an untrustworthy character, so it's an intense, dramatic scene, but also has a nice blend of humor.  There's some great opportunities for character progression for Bilbo in the scene as well, as his reaction towards Gollum begins as fear, then slowly turns to boldness and eventually he even begins to feel pity for Gollum.  Tim Becze played Gollum perfectly, and it was a lot of fun to play off of him for this scene.  My second-favorite scene would be the fight scene in the goblins cave, because, not only was it a blast to have a sword and get to fight onstage, but we also all participated in a stage combat seminar and learned a lot of great basic combat skills, including skills that weren't used in the play but could be useful in the future. How taxing was it on yourself and on your schedule to play Bilbo? I was actually very fortunate.  Any other year I wouldn't have had time to take such a large role and do it justice.  But it's my senior year, and most of my toughest classes are behind me, meaning this is a lighter semester as far as homework goes.  Which is a good thing, because the play demanded a lot of time.  Normal plays at Bethel have rehearsals Monday through Thursday, 3 hours a night, and longer during show week.  Because The Hobbit was such a big production and we had such a short time to pull it off, we also had Friday night rehearsals, and every Saturday we had all-day stage combat training and fight choreography rehearsals.  Sunday was the only day we had off, so the play basically was my life for those five weeks.  However, because it was so much fun, it never felt taxing.
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