Last Saturday, in the fresh air of an outdoor theator, I watched Fiddler on the Roof. “The Fiddler is a metaphor for survival, through tradition and joyfulness, in a life of uncertainty and imbalance”
“Fiddler” centers on a family in a Russian village in 1905 under Tsar issued pogroms. By the end of the play the whole village is evicted. After generations in Anatevka, though they had nothing to show for it but a pot or a broom, it had been home.
But more daunting than State persecution and expulsion, Tevye must cope with his daughter’s drifting from the traditions of their faith as they obtain husbands. Tevye is challenged as he must decide what he can accept, and what he cannot. When asked to accept something contrary to his deepest belief, he protests, “It would require giving up my faith; abandoning who I am. I cannot do that!”
Tevye’s good humor is a thread that ties the story together: from his prayers (“Would it spoil some vast eternal plan if I were a wealthy man?”) to his scheme to inform his wife that their oldest daughter would not be marrying the butcher, Lazar Wolf, but Motel, the tailor. This latter is achieved in a crowd-pleasing scene where the cast enacts Tevye’s “dream”—where Lazar’s deceased wife, Fruma-Sarah makes a startling appearance.
The joyfulness of the people went beyond good humor; it was in their anticipation of the visit from the matchmaker, their toasting a wedding, and their dancing at it. It is in Motel’s cartwheel when Tevye’s oldest daughter insists that “even a tailor is entitled to a bit of happiness.” Balancing uncertainty with a demanding belief could destroy a less joyful people. Despite poverty and hardship, they choose to drink a toast “to Life.”
Fiddler on the Roof , produced by High Valley Arts, is currently playing in its Midvale outdoor theater. The show runs through July 9th—tickets can be obtained online. Saturday the scene that stole the show was like a microcosm of the theme.
When Tevye’s cart was brought on stage prior to the final scene, a wheel fell off. It was propped against a riser and left. After the drama of goodbyes, Tevye (played by Doug Osmond) looked at his cart that he is to pull off stage, and totally off script, but in character, exclaimed, “What happened to my cart?” He looked heavenward with another prayer, “First my horse and now my cart? What about Yente?” The audience roared.
“Fiddler” reminds us that we don’t know what life will bring, but our faith and some good humor can sustain us.
End note: Temperatures in Midvale at 6 pm were 91º in the shade. However, by the time we headed down the canyon to home it had dropped to 63º. Bring blankets and jackets. Also bring your own camp chair, or rent a chair there, and be prepared to park in a field. The theater was proud of this year’s new structure behind the stage—last year’s tent had taken flight in a micro burst one night. On less dramatic nights, the cast often had to stand on the edges of the tent when they were not on stage. They were also proud of their new sod lawn. It was laid down by the cast and other volunteers. Their production is run on donations as well as ticket sales.
At intermission they sold cookies, fresh popped popcorn, candy and drinks from folding tables and a wooden refreshment stand. Also, Avram, the bookseller (Stuart Waldrip, husband of the Producer / Director Sue Waldrip) changed rolls during intermission and became a brick seller. Calling out to the audience like a circus barker, he sold bricks for $125 each. Perhaps some year they’ll have public restrooms to replace the row of blue portables at the back of the lawn. In the meantime, they produce wonderful outdoor shows each summer with hard work, lots of prayers, and of course, good natured laughter.
Mazel Tov–“The word mazel literally means ‘a drip from above’. . . To say Mazel Tov to a person is to congratulate him or her, giveing a blessing–‘May this drip of inspiration from above not dissipate but rather have a lasting effect for good in your life.'” (All quotes from the High Valley Arts Outdoor Summer Theater program.)