In the upstairs kitchen at the Grange Hall a group of elementary and middle school students are having a discussion about facial hair.

“Okay, who has the braided mustache and who has the five o’clock shadow?” asks Max Dankert.

“If my eyebrows don’t match my beard it will be too weird,” says Ethan Aubrey Taylor.

The students are getting ready for a dress rehearsal for the Charter School’s upcoming production of the Hobbit. Performances are at the Grange Hall on Friday and Saturday.

With opening night a few days away in a play that includes a band of dwarves, hair and makeup is a character unto itself. Thankfully, sophomore Max Dankert is an old hand at transforming children into dragons, knights, turtles, lions — the list is long during his five years in charge of makeup for the annual school play.

“Gollum is challenging,” he admits. “He has a dramatic change and I have to pale him out to make him look dead.”

Seventh grader Violet MacPhail plays Thorin, the lead dwarf with very thick eyebrows. 

“He’s strict and not a very fun person,” Violet says about her character who is in nearly every scene, a step up she adds from last year’s role when she had one scene as a giant turtle.

“You can be the rude person you always wanted to be,” remarks Max.

After eyebrows and faces are tinted and fluffed it’s on to the hair, overseen by a trio of moms. “There are 13 dwarves, three wigs and lots of teasing,” says stage manager Tina Floyd. She points to her daughter Rhys, whose hair now defies gravity like a towering stretch of cotton candy. “I’m stoked about that one,” she says.

Farther down the line, Sarah Hibler braids a dwarf’s hair into long, tight knots. When asked where she gained her expertise, Ms. Hibler shrugs: “A curly-haired life.”

The cast continues to assemble for the rehearsal, a troupe of about 44 students, ranging from kindergartners to high schoolers.

Amid the swirling chaos of the looming production, director Heather Capece appears like Moses before the Red Sea, encouraging nervous dwarves, straightening elf ears, and making adjustments due to recent injuries. The fearsome dragon Smaug, played by Samantha Seidel-Aldrich-Moodie, sprained her ankle playing soccer the day before and arrives on crutches, and one of the trolls, second grader Stela Thulin Duncheva, broke her arm skateboarding.

Ms. Capece has been at the helm of the Charter School play for many years, along with the help of a long list of moms, dads and teachers, she is quick to add. But chaos seems to become her, so much so that she has been adding new layers to the productions the last few years. For The Neverending Story she incorporated dance numbers. And this year for the first time, there will be a live band, led by freshmen Dylan Bowen and Brendan Donnelly. Gandalf will also do double duty, sitting in at times to play guitar and sing.

“That is a highlight,” Brendan says. “When Ethan and Dylan sing I See Fire. It is such a treat.”

This is the first acting gig for third grader Casey Webster. “I play a goblin, a hobbit, a tree and part of the dragon’s wing,” she says. She likes the goblin part best because she has some lines of dialogue. “And I’m in a fight scene,” she adds.

Third grader Made Crowell also plays a goblin, hobbit, tree and part of the dragon’s wing. “My favorite is the tree,” she says. “I don’t have to talk and I get to move.” She then demonstrates the flowing movements of a tree, dancing off to the kitchen for some more adjustments to her makeup.

Eighth grader Maya Tompkins plays Dori the dwarf. She’s been acting in Charter School plays since fifth grade. “I’ve played a druid, a witch, a teacher and now a dwarf,” she says about her career on stage thus far. Following eighth grade graduation later this spring Maya will move on to the regional high school in the fall.

"I’m sad,” she says, reflecting on her last Charter School performance. “But I’m also ready to see what theatre is like at the regional high school.”

Once everyone is in costume, down to the tiniest kindergartener, Ms. Capece gathers her actors on stage. They run through some body and voice exercises and then the room goes quiet.

“We are no longer Maya, Ethan, Casey or Violet,” Ms. Capece says. “We are no longer Beatrice, Clementine, Koko or Pickle. They have left the building and are no longer here. We are now dwarves and hobbits, trees who can move, elves, goblins, trolls, and a dragon who breathes fire.”

More photos.

The Hobbit opens at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury on Friday, May 10 at 6 p.m., with performances on Saturday, May 11 at 2 and 6 p.m. Admission is $10 or $35 for a family of 4.