SUGAR LAND, Texas (Nov. 30, 2018) – Members of Inspiration Stage’s Fiddler on the Roof JR. cast were eager to learn about the faith and history depicted in the musical ahead of their Dec. 14 – 16 performances.
During a recent rehearsal, the cast of 40 young actors — from age 10 to age 18 — enjoyed a visit by Rabbi Joshua Fixler from Houston’s Congregation Emanu El. Rabbi Fixler offered historical, cultural, and religious context for Judaism during the Pale of Settlement, when Fiddler on the Roof takes place, and even helped stage several culturally significant moments in the show for more authentic, reverent storytelling.
“When I was in rabbinical school in New York my professor, Dr. Larry Hoffman, consulted on newest Broadway production of Fiddler on the roof. As a big theater fan, I thought it would be so fun to get to work with a cast to create a performance of the Jewish content in this play that was both accurate and meaningful. So when Inspiration Stage called, I was quick to say yes,” Rebbi Fixler says.
“A few of our cast members are of Jewish faith, but the majority of these students are experiencing this culture and its customs for the first time,” says the musical’s director and music director, Sarah Patterson. “It is important to our production team to not only do justice to this terrific music, awe-inspiring choreography, and touching story, but to also immerse ourselves in the culture and historical context of this pieces—hopefully leaving our actors and audiences with an appreciation for Jewish culture, Judaism, and the exceptional hardships of the Semitic people during the Russian Pale of Settlement.”
The musical’s Yente, 12-year-old Julia Cate of Cinco Ranch, says, “During the time spent with Rabbi Fixler, I was able to learn about the origin of David’s star, and the family importance of Shabbat. Rabbi Fixler not only shared his wide range of knowledge, but he also displayed deep love, beauty, and passion for his culture and traditions. This experience has given me an authentic connection to my character. I am genuinely thankful for the time that he spent with the cast of Fiddler on the Roof.”
The cast was proud to perform “Sabbath Prayer”, “Sunrise, Sunset”, and the “Wedding Dance” for Rabbi Fixler, and receive specific feedback to help them better represent these pivotal moments.
“The cast of their production of Fiddler on the Roof Jr. were fantastic. They asked such terrific questions about the meaning of all the pieces of Jewish ritual garb, like the kippah (head covering) and tallit (prayer shawl). They performed two of the numbers for me that contained the rituals of the Sabbath and a Jewish wedding and we talked through each action and its meaning. It was wonderful to get to share my traditions with the cast, and to hopefully help inspire a production that will teach Jewish culture to the Houston community,” Fixler says. “We talked about how this is a particularly important time to perform this play, with the recent uptick in anti-Semitic acts and the tragic shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. I shared with them that it is a lot harder to hate someone once you know them and their story and told them how appreciative I was that they were taking the job of telling our story so seriously. It was a truly special night.”
Jane Delahoussaye, an 11-year-old Sugar Land resident and sixth grader at Logos Preparatory Academy, plays the iconic Fiddler in Inspiration Stage’s production. “Not only was Rabbi Fixler generous with his time in giving us important history and culture, but he was also gracious in letting us ask questions that may seem silly or awkward. It will make our storytelling better, and it also gives me an even better appreciation of the Jewish faith,” she says.
“Rabbi Fixler left our students and production team enriched and energized to present the story of Fiddler on the Roof with passion, respect, and exuberance!” Patterson says.
This special student adaptation of the nine-time Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Fiddler on the Roof JR. tells the story of a poor dairyman, Tevye, who in the little village of Anatevka, tries to instill in his five daughters the traditions of his tightly knit Jewish community in the face of changing social mores and the growing anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia. The traditions of his ancestors are shattered as his daughters assert their independence and government troops brutally force Tevye and his fellow villagers from their homes. The curtain falls on Tevye’s uplifting determination to create another life in the New World.
Based on the award-winning, iconic Broadway classic, this universal drama is a true musical theatre tradition, including classics like “Matchmaker,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” and “If I Were a Rich Man.”
“I’m honored to direct this beloved classic with a unique cast that represents the immense cultural diversity in Fort Bend County. Fiddler is a story of a people finding their way in a dynamic world that constantly challenges their beliefs and values. Though set over 100 years ago, the musical is timeless in its themes of family, tradition, and change,” Patterson says.
Performances will be held at the historic Sugar Land Auditorium, Dec. 14 – 16, with two evening shows and two matinees. For tickets and more information, visit http://inspirationstage.com/shows/.
Inspiration Stage is a national award-winning performance arts studio located in the historic Sugar Land Auditorium at 226 Lakeview Dr. The 2018/2019 season includes youth and adult productions, as well as acting and production classes. Tuition assistance is available to qualifying participants. For tickets and information, visit www.inspirationstage.com.