|Mike Cota struts his stuff at the Circus School as he practices for the Lord Of The Rings stage musical. (Greg Henjenhaf, SUN)
TORONTO - Alexander Frith is the circus consultant and stilts adviser for the stage production of The Lord Of The Rings, which heads our way next year.
Casting is getting underway, and yesterday stiltwalker auditions were held at the Toronto Circus School Of The Arts.
Before the auditions, Frith, who was born in Australia but currently lives in London, England, said he thought there would possibly be a greater response to the stiltwalker casting call in Canada than anywhere else.
"I know there's a great tradition of circus arts in Canada," said Frith, a trained dancer with a circus background. "Canada's the home of the circus, really, but I think there are people coming from all over the world, so I'm really excited."
Frith has been developing and testing a unique brand of stilts in London specifically for the musical adaptation of LOTR.
According to Frith, a normal stilt is under one metre in length and is traditionaly made of wood. The special LOTR stilts will be three metres high and aluminum-based.
"We've multiplied the normal stilt height by three," said Frith. "If you can imagine being that high -- it's like having about three times the size of a person at your feet."
On top of that, Frith is looking for stiltwalkers who are 5-foot-11 or taller and plans to put LOTR-hopefuls through a rigorous obstacle course and endurance test -- while on stilts, of course.
"They're going to have to have a head for heights, physical confidence, and they need to be really strong," said Frith. "They also need to be good actors, singers and dancers."
Adds Frith, with a laugh: "We're not asking for much, really... but I'm confident we can find them all here in Toronto."
The stiltwalkers will primarily be cast in the roles of either the ents (the tree people) or the black riders.
"Usually, more short people do stiltwalking because they want to get one up on the tallies," said Frith. "But we're looking for tall people because we have to keep the height of the ensemble up to keep the hobbits looking small."
Although for this casting call Frith is looking for tall, strong males, he says anyone can become a skilled stiltwalker.
"People are mystified by it -- they think it's a lot harder than it is, but it's not that hard," said Frith. "It's such a leap of the imagination to think of yourself up there, but you can learn to totter around on stilts in about a week if you're not a complete scaredy cat."