Baggins role has been a dream for years

Preparing for opening night and his first lead role, Zavier Tanner wasn’t nervous, but rather excited about bringing the character of Bilbo Baggins to life.

That might be shocking to hear from most 14-year-olds, but maybe not from a young actor who has been on stage since before he was old enough to be in school, and a boy who has eight plays and several television commercials under his belt.

“I guess I’ve lost the opening night nerves. I am just very excited,” he said just hours before the show was set to open last Friday.

Langley’s Imagine That! productions raised the curtain last weekend on the first of six showings of The Hobbit, and young Zavier – better known to his friends as Ziggy – said it was like a dream.

He remembers from an early age longing to be part of a play based on one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.

 â€œI was really excited to see that this year’s production was The Hobbit, as I am a big Tolkien fan,” explained the Grade 9 Clayton Heights Secondary student.

“At Imagine That! we don’t audition for specific roles, but I have always hoped that when [the company’s producers and director] Faith [Toronchuk] did The Hobbit again, I’d be old enough to be Bilbo Baggins.”

And so it was written. Weekly rehearsals began back in July to prepare Ziggy and the cast for a fistful of performances.

“I have always loved fantasy and Tolkien,” added Ziggy, noting he’s been immersed in community theatre most of his life and been a Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fan almost as long.

“I have seen all the LOTR and Hobbit movies that are currently out, and I have read The Hobbit novel multiple times,” he said.

Being given the chance to play the role as Baggins, Ziggy said, is really the answer to a dream.

But that said, “the most difficult part about being Bilbo is that he is so different from me,” the aspiring young actor added. “Bilbo doesn’t like adventures where I on the other hand love them. I sometimes wish that I had been born in Middle Earth.”

His mother, Chelle, has been an instructor, acting coach, stage manager, and assistant director with Imagine That! since the company’s inception in 2003, and Ziggy can recall from an early age watching rehearsals and painting set, longing for his turn on stage.

By age five, he was enrolled in acting classes, and by age eight he had his first role in Nate the Great.

This is his ninth show with Imagine That! And while he said he’s played both minor and major roles in past, this is the first time he landed the lead.

Asked what the scariest part is about his latest role, after some thoughtful contemplation he replied: “To me, there’s nothing scary about this role or being an actor. There are lots of responsibilities, of course, such as a lot of lines to memorize and blocking to remember.”

Being on stage – whether it’s as an actor or as a musician with his band– is defnitely in the cards for this young thespian.

As for specifically what is next, the Clayton Heights youth is not too sure yet.

While there’s no set plans for another play in the immediate future, he said he’s going to be working to build his YouTube channel of game play and he’s working – as a guitarist – with a band. He’s also planning to handcraft his own acoustic guitar with his Uncle Rod.

Undoubtedly, he said, he will perform in future Imagine That! Productions – but what that will be has not yet been determined.

The Hobbit began last weekend, but continues this weekend, with a 7:30 p.m. show Friday, and two more matinees on Saturday and Sunday, March 8 and 9 at 2:30 p.m.

The Venue is located in Friends Langley Vineyard church at 5708 Glover Rd. Ticket info:

He’s joined in the cast for this production by:

  • Derek Usher as Gandalf the Grey 

  • Liam Sullivan as Thorin Oakenshield

  • Ted Staunton as Balin & Smaug the Dragon

  • Paul Johnston as Bombur & Goblin King    

  • Miranda Croft as Dwalin & Lord Elrond of Rivendell

  • Jessa Martens as Kili & Thranduil Elven King

  • Lauren Blakemore as Nori, Bert Troll & Bard Master Archer

  • Ginny Thingvold as Ori, Gollum & Spider

  • Julie-Ann Kliewer as Fili, Tom Troll & Spider

  • Abby Davyduck as Bifur & William Troll

  • Aimee White as Bofur & Goblin General

  • Tamara Croft as Old Took

  • Appearances by Tonia Martens, Shelley Davyduck and Talitha Fagan

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