In the last 14 years I have had the pleasure of performing the role of Tevey in Fiddler on the Roof twice. The first time was in 1999 in Flagstaff AZ with the Flagstaff Light Opera Company.
That production was a lot of fun and gave me the opportunity to get to know a character I loved for so many years. My favorite characterization was of course by Topal in the film version and so I made him my model to work from during that performance. I have to say in retrospect the production then focused more on the music and dance than the actual depth and characterization of the story line. This of course was most likely due to the Director and her desire to create a show worthy of the music and dance, although it was a grand experience, looking back I have to say it was lacking in power and might of the story.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012. I was not interested in doing anymore theatre and my focus had changed I had put down my guitar and music was no longer the mistress in my life, although I will always remain a musician and performer after 45 years of it, I was looking down a much different path. My wife noticed one day that there were auditions for Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and encouraged me to audition, I was not interested and left it at that. A week later I got a call from my wife saying you have an audition on Tuesday at 11:00, after a moment of silence I agreed.
Needless to say I have never been fond of the audition process and find it annoying and stressful but after many years of it I felt no different. I walked in to the usual nervous first timers and arrogant old timers and sat quietly in a chair to wait. My time came up and as I performed I felt good about the singing as I have always sung since age 7 and it was no struggle to do so, the group dance was awkward as I had grown older and was not as limber as I use to be.
I left and felt relief that it was over. A week later I received a call for a call back, a term in theatre which means your in but not yet! So I went, I had been chosen among three others as potential Tevye’s . The other two gentlemen went first and then I did my part. After that I knew in my gut I was the one to be Tevye.
Here let me say, Tevey is one of those people in my life, that was so close to my own personality, a part of him still resided in me from the first time I portrayed him. I could relate to him and understood his pain and soul.
Moving a head from this point in time to the Rehearsal process.
My Director is an outstanding Woman and annoying as well, one of those directors that is hell bent on getting emotion from a rock!! It was obvious that this time around this Director was not going to focus on the music or the song but the actual story and the characters involved. In fact we had three Directors, Music, Dance and Acting, this made for an incredible experience, the cast was well picked and we grew in to a true family of the theater! We spent one month putting together one of the most intensive shows there are with a grueling five night a week rehearsal schedule, the cast were Troopers in the true sense of the word. Without them Anatevka would not have existed and Tevya would have stood alone on a rock with nothing to share.
For four months I became a man that was buried inside of me and felt him reside in the forefront. This time I became Tevye and Topal was no more, the accent was my own and the feelings came from within me. Each week I would go to work and do my everyday thing but each weekend I became a Jewish patriarch with a soul that resided in Russia. The accent flowed like a river and the tears were as real as they could be, the joy and the conversations with God were my own translated by this man I became.
One thing that lent itself to such an incredible transformation was where we performed. I was in an amphitheater surrounded by boulders and huge rocks with a dirt stage and some of my songs were performed atop a huge rock formation overlooking the powerful vistas of the southwest. Truly it became another world each time I did it.
I suppose I’m writing this because the other day I was describing my time as Tevye to someone and as I did I became enraptured and trembled from with in. It was as though he was still there and wanted to come out, or.. perhaps it was that part of me that wanted to come out. Life changes are incredible and the one difference from the first time I did Tevye to the most recent, was time. The second time I became Tevye I was 59 Years old I didn’t have to grey my beard as it was already grey and I didn’t have to pretend I had lost my daughters, as I had already lost one to the world in real life. Growing older had given me the experience it took to actually see the world and God as Tevye did.
Or perhaps, it was all me the whole time and I’ve become older and that’s all. Regardless my time as Tevye has taught me so much about myself and the places I still have yet to go in my soul!
And the Fiddler?? He will always be there dancing with me, playing his simple tune, together we will go on, in to the great unknown to seek our destiny!