Sep 23, 2008

"FIDDLER" stirs up the stage

by Kerah Kemmerer

Liberty University’s Theatre Arts Department ushered in this year’s production season to the classic melodies of “Fiddler on the Roof” on Sept. 19. The department has chosen the theme “Aginst All Odds,” for this year’s productions.

“I believe that one of the predominant themes of this play is the fragility of the Jewish people,” choreographer Lori Provost said. “That is why they work extra hard to talk about and maintain a sense of unity and tradition, because they are fully aware that they are barely hanging on by a thread.”

The play is about a Jewish man named Tevye, played by sophomore Jason Irizarry, and the struggles he faces raising his five daughters in Russia during an era that tests religious traditions while dealing with anti-Semitism.

Tevye finds direction in his life by engaging in one-sided conversations with God. Much to the chagrin of his friends and family, he constantly quotes from “the Good Book.” He often ends up misquoting the Bible and tailors the verses to fit a given situation.
“Tevye is an amazing role. He is so complex,” Irizarry said. “He doesn’t want to spend his days as a milk man, but that is his role in life. He wants to be an educated man, a godly man and a man that everyone can look up to.”

Tevye’s openness in prayer reveals the struggles a parent may face raising a family against cultural ideals. The questions, the frustration and the amusement that so often arise in real and raw prayer are aptly displayed through this character.
Senior Natalie Beals plays the pivotal and unusual role of the fiddler. Although there are no lines for the character, the fiddler plays in every scene where an important decision is being made.

“The Fiddler represents tradition in the village of Anatevka,” Beals said. “Like fiddling on the roof, following tradition is like trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking [one’s] neck.”

New professor and Director Christopher Nelson, chose this play based on his own past experience and familiarity with it.
“One of the last shows I did here as a student was ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in 2000,” Nelson said. “It was one of my favorite shows so when the opportunity came up to direct it, I thought that I would enjoy that challenge.”

Nelson’s biggest challenges were a young cast and time, which is always short for the season’s first production.

“It’s been one of the shortest times we have had to put something together. We had less than five weeks,” Nelson said. “The majority of our cast are freshmen.”

But none of those challenges became an issue as the cast danced and sang its way into the night. The chemistry and energy on stage was evident.

Provost and Nelson have performed together on Liberty’s stage in the past. In addition, both attended Regent University. Provost said she was very familiar with Nelson’s acting and directing styles. She has also had some first-hand experience to draw on while incorporating the choreography in to the production.

“I went to Israel a few years ago,” Provost said. “One of the things that touched me the most while I was in Israel was the Western Wall, known as the “Wailing Wall.” I even incorporated an image of the wall in my choreography to show how in the midst of desperation, the Jewish people are very resilient and instinctively know where to turn ... to their faith.”

Although it was tough at times as some actors were not as “seasoned in picking up new choreography,” according to Provost, they all worked very hard and made great progress in the little time they had to prepare.

“This has been a good learning experience for these guys,” Nelson said. “They really stepped up and they are definitely performing above and beyond their status in college.”

 


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