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Friday, October 4, 2013

Fiddler on the Roof Is In Portland

Nadene Goldfoot                                                              
I saw Fiddler on the Roof last night at the Portland Center Stage.  It was fantastic.  I hadn't seen a stage play of this musical since I saw Treasure Valley Community College's presentation in the 1970's.  It had been a long time since I had seen the movie version.   It was a treat.  What amazed me was finding young adults who hadn't seen or heard about it.    A new generation of people who hadn't known the Fiddler!  How sad.  I hope they take advantage now that it's come here from New York.  In fact, we did have a few Portland actors in it along with 11 from New York.  Golda and one of the daughters with the long blonde hair are from Portland.
The singing, and  especially the dancing were fantastic;  every bit as good if not better than the movie presentation.  It was absolutely awesome to see the men doing the Russian Kazatzka dancing down on their knees in the kneeling position moving across the stage so quickly done by the Cossacks that entered the town of Anatevka.  I don't think our community college had an orchestra, but Portland did last night.  Of course they had a violin which played a prominent part, but they also had a keyboard, bass, percussion, trumpet, trombone, flute, clarinet and cello.
The main characters are Tevye, the milkman who lives in a little shtetl in the Pale of Settlement, an area that Catherine II set off for Jews to live in so that G-d forbid they wouldn't be in Russia proper.  This shtetl could have been in Ukraine, Poland, Latvia or Lithuania.  It's under the government of the Russian government, of course, and their soldiers occasionally enter to cause pogroms, of which one is in the story.  Golda Meier, Prime Minister of Israel had lived through one terrible pogrom that she wrote about.  Tevye spends time talking to G-d, and tells him all his troubles.  He has a wife, Golde and daughters to marry off.  Who they marry and how Tevye feels about it is the central theme of the story.  Yente, a widow,  is the matchmaker of the shtetl
The Czarist government would take Jewish boys into the army at a very young age and put them on the front lines.  This caused many families to seek out another country to live in as well as the whims of changing populations such as in this story.  Suddenly the village has 3 days of warning to leave.  Most go to the USA.  All the Jews were observant Jews, and were quite afraid of what would happen to them in a new country.  My paternal grandparents must have gone through these same feelings, as they came as immigrants around 1900.

What thrilled me in watching this beautiful production was the pride of the cast in their Jewish role. You could feel it in the manner that they sang, danced and spoke.   I could have sworn they were all Jewish, but most likely none were.  Thank you for this, Chris Coleman, artistic director.  My Polish/Lithuanian grandmother would have enjoyed this so much.

Mr. Coleman  mentions in the program that for those of us watching from the perspective of 2013, this was a story of a world changing too fast and another vanishing too quickly.  It shows the enormous resilience of the human spirit.  My family who were with me also enjoyed it so much.  Thank goodness there are such productions to give them an experience of our history in such a remarkable way.

Resource:  Kazatzka dancing Russian soldiers dancing

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