Marble Falls theater student resets ‘The Hobbit’ in London for run at state competition


MARBLE FALLS — The premise was simple: Develop a costume design for the stage production version of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “The Hobbit.”

With a 2012 film giving Hollywood’s take on the classic book, along with previous movie releases of the complete “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, how creative could a Marble Falls High School student get with costume design?

Imagine the same story but set as a political-style thriller in modern London. Marble Falls High School theater student Jack Oberle did, and now his costume design concepts are headed to the Texas University Interscholastic League state theatrical design contest in May. His designs and renderings will compete against 41 other students from across Texas.

“I basically considered all the movies coming out and the ones that I like to see and put (“The Hobbit”) in a similar setting,” Oberle said. “I really like thrillers and the stylistic nature of them.”

Oberle was one of three MFHS theater students competing in the theatrical design contest that includes costume, set, makeup and publicity. The two other students, MaeAnn Ross (marketing) and Corey Bogue (costume), earned praise for their efforts but didn’t advance to the state level.

MFHS theater arts teacher Martha Patino said the UIL picks a play that all Texas students work with for the contest. The youth can enter individually or as teams, but the MFHS students chose individual routes.

The students then pick their category and develop a justification paper, renderings and submissions. But they don’t have to build a complete set or craft a full costume, just the renderings, photos or other representations.

“The great thing about this competition is you take the play and thrust it into a different genre, time or setting,” Patino said. “It really allows the students to use their imagination.”

The key part of the submission is not the costume rendering or makeup photos, but the justification paper, she said.

The students must write out an explanation for why they chose a setting, design or genre.

“The judges read (the justification) first,” Patino said. “If they don’t like it, then they don’t go any further.”

Oberle dropped main character Bilbo Baggins amid modern London under the grips of the drug cartel lord Smaug.

“I took Smaug the dragon (from “The Hobbit”), made him into a woman, and she heads the cartel in London,” he said. While Oberle honored Tolkein’s concept, he admitted to taking liberties with some of the storyline to work it into present-day London. “It’s really a look at how drugs and the drug business has become such a major problem.”

Oberle only had to do enough with the storyline and plot to develop his costumes, not write out an entire script. Though producing such a play would be an interesting endeavor itself.

“It would be great, but think of the sets,” he said. “It would be a lot of work. And expensive.”