Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Theatre and Dance Studies

Academics

Fiddler on the Roof

Posted on April 15, 2003

April 15-17 & 22-24, 2003

Written by Joseph Stein
Music By Jerry Bock
Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed by David Fox
Musical Direction by Tim Harbold
Choreography by Stephanie Freeman '04

Weber Theatre, Watson Fine Arts


Interview with David Fox, Director:

Any play, any work of art is bigger than itself: by its very nature, art reverberates as metaphor-it is so much more than its literal reality. Fiddler on the Roof goes way beyond Anatevka, Russia, 1905...

It is about the persecution of minorities in whatever shtetl, ghetto, poor village or neighborhood we can imagine-anytime, anyplace.

It is about the difficulty of change, the absence of loved ones, the importance of family and tradition, ethnic cleansing, a home gone forever, another forced exodus.

And, perhaps most importantly, it is about the strength, the resilience, the saving grace of humor in the human spirit.

For me, this is an actor's show first, and a song and dance show second: the most important task ahead of us is to find the real heart and truth of these people-their hopes for a better tomorrow, their simple pleasures, their passions, their frustrations, their hurt-these are not musical comedy stereotypes.

We are not going to soften the edges of this script just because it is a musical- what I feel consistently ruins production after production of this show. We will get beyond the show-biz phenomenon that is Fiddler, beyond the hollow caricatures, the schmaltz-instead, we think about real people in a real struggle against the oppression and poverty, political theatre that happens to have some music--the pain, the loss, the small triumphs in this script must ring true.

Above all else, I want the characters in this play to have dignity. I am distrustful of thick dialects: too easily the characters stop becoming genuine and too much like trite types with a stereotypical Jewish "sound". We will play with the more subtle lilt and inflection of the language that's contained within the writing and avoid Yiddish cartoons.

Finally, we concentrate long and hard on the "bridges" in this play between spoken dialogue and song. Specifically, what is it in the given circumstances of the script that demand a character leave speaking and begin singing? Why is the spoken word no longer satisfactory? It is comparable to forsaking Shakespearean prose for Shakespearean verse: something in the brew demands a higher expression. Knowing what lifts you into song- i.e., what yearning, what scheme, what accomplishment, what loss- will lend more believability to the proceedings.

In every way possible, I want this production of Fiddler to accentuate the universal within the particular. The "smaller stage" of Anatevka must be a reflection of the "larger stage" of human history. These people matter because they are us.

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