Bilbo Baggins visits Sussex

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:12

    SUSSEX-A timeless classic came to life and ran down the aisles of the Sussex-Wantage Middle School April 16, thanks to the Sussex-Wantage Friends of the Library. About 280 members of the community showed up for a production of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" by the Traveling Lantern Theater Company, hosted by the Friends. The two-man show used creative props and quick costume changes to tell the story of a hobbit, a small man with furry feet, who reluctantly leaves his comfortable home to go on an adventure in search of fame and wealth. Greg Lawson played Bilbo Baggins in the title role, and Greg Tankersley played the other characters including Gandalf the wizard, the dwarf Thorin and the cave-dwelling Gollum. Many of the audience members were familiar with the story, and often the actors had to roll with the punches when children in the audience would shout out a warning of what would happen next. Even an electrical failure halfway through the performance was worked into the show. After the actors took their bows, they took their props and costumes to the front of the stage, and demonstrated each one for the members of the audience who crowded around. "The kids are great," said Tankersley, who obligingly changed into his costume as Thorin the dwarf to demonstrate how one actor could play several parts in the same show. "Maybe they'll want to be actors someday." The show was only one of many events hosted by the Friends group. Local author readings, knitting and crocheting lessons, family African drumming night and lectures on gardening are only a few of the varied programs the Friends have spon sored, according to Jayne McHugh, who will become president of the Friends in May. The group has also sponsored two teen coffeehouses for local students to play and sing. These programs are free, although sometimes there is a charge for materials, said McHugh. The Friends group's biggest fundraiser is its used book sale, which is scheduled for April 23 and 24 at the library, said McHugh. Used books, CDs, videos and DVDs will be sold, and the proceeds will fund all of the programs hosted by the Friends, said McHugh. The group was formed in 1995 to raise support for a new library in the community, according to Susan Weiss, president of the Friends group. "The promise to build a new facility n made in 1985 n had been stalled for 10 years," said Weiss in an e-mail interview. "The Friends re-energized the topic. We informed the community, met with political leaders and got the ball rolling." "Initially, membership demonstrated to the Freeholders that a new library was on the community's agenda as an urgent need," said Weiss. There are about 300 members of the Friends of the Library, and many members choose to renew year after year. After the building was completed, Weiss was afraid the Friends might disband, but she has seen the opposite happen, she said. "The Sussex-Wantage Friends is starting a new chapter," said Weiss. "Now that resources do not have to go towards lobbying for the new facility, time, talent and funds can be used to better the community in many different ways." The library building is a spacious, airy structure, with large skylights, comfortable seats for browsing and computers for searching the catalog or using the Internet. However, many of the shelves are only half full. One way to fill the shelves is to contribute to the gift book program, which has raised about $2,000 so far, said McHugh. People can donate money for book purchases in someone's memory, and commemorative bookplates are also available.