Commentary · Plays

The Power of Theater: No Ordinary “Fiddler” On This Stage…

Last evening my husband and I went to see Fiddler on the Roof at Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo, NY. We’ve each seen “Fiddler” a few times over the years and knew what to expect- and we looked forward to this beautiful, sad, humorous musical play. But from the first moments of the show we knew THIS production would be different. The set is a train station and a man is dressed in contemporary clothing (a red jacket). As he boards the train with many others, the doorway is turned and as the people mingle suddenly they all are in peasant clothing from a long ago time. The man in the red jacket becomes Tevya, the father with five daughters, husband of Golde, and he begins his conversation with God and sings of “Tradition”.

As we approach Election Day 2018 I am thinking of all the men who, like Tevya, are trying to feed and protect their families in a world that seems only to care for certain types of people. I’m thinking of all the women, who like Golde and her daughters, struggle to embody their true selves, to protect themselves and each other from what the world would impose on them and yes, what is imposed upon them in their own household, in the guise of “Tradition”.

I’m thinking of all the refugees who like the family in “Fiddler” find themselves suddenly and without warning forced from their homes, or those who choose to leave under threat of harm. Where is safe haven? And who will be allowed to go there?

Growing up in the America of the 1950s and 60s, I never had to worry about those kinds of questions. I read about people who did, but they were from other places, not here, in America. That could never happen here!

And yet earlier this year families were torn apart as they crossed the border into the US and as I write this, people still  are fleeing their homes in South America to save their children

Fiddler on the Roof always has been an  important and relevant play. By adding a contemporary note, the production we saw last night  was made  all the more powerful, current and relevant as, when the villagers begin their forced emigration  to America, Tevya once again becomes the contemporary man in the red jacket, walking with the “others” against a backlit stage–shadow people walking, walking, walking, but to where? And to what?

One thing I know for sure is this: They are us.