The St. Joseph’s Academy/Catholic High School Black Box Company presented Fiddler on the Roof April 3-7 in the Academy Arts Center Black Box Theater. The musical was presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International.
Set in the little village of Anatevka, the story is about Tevye, a poor milkman, and his five daughters. With the help of a colorful and tight-knit Jewish community, Tevye tries to protect his daughters and instill in them traditional values in the face of changing social mores and the growing anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia. Rich in historical and ethnic detail, Fiddler on the Roof’s universal theme of tradition cuts across barriers of race, class, nationality and religion.
Lily McGill, SJA’s drama teacher and Black Box Company moderator, said the production was a tremendous success, with all six shows sold out in advance. The production involved more than 60 students and a team of designers and musicians from the community. “It’s amazing to have that kind of support and excitement from our community,” she said. “This was a really special production, and I’m so proud we could present this for the 150th anniversary of SJA. We featured a live orchestra, which is not all that common in high school productions.”
During rehearsals in February, Rabbi Jordan Goldson, spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Israel, visited with the cast and crew to help them learn about the Jewish culture and the significance of the traditions portrayed in the musical. “We had wonderful support from our local Jewish community,” McGill said. “I am so thankful for Rabbi Goldson for speaking to the cast and Rabbi Weinstein for attending the performance.”
Senior Brooke Bell portrayed Grandma Tzeitel. She said being part of the cast was a memorable experience. “Fiddler on the Roof is a special story about discrimination against the Jewish people,” she said. “This beautiful play taught the cast and all those involved about how to treat others with kindness and acceptance. The theme of love and family throughout this show extended backstage, as we all held hands for our final performance. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive director and cast to end my time with Drama Club here at SJA. I will miss it for years to come.”
Senior Kate Landry portrayed Yente and said she enjoyed the comedic role in a story which was dark at times. “The duality of the moods of Fiddler really made the show an important, rounded production,” she said. “The way so many people were impacted by the story, whether it was through humor or the plot itself, made the production very special to me. I remember hearing the audience’s reactions through the back of the set. The laughter during funny, light-hearted scenes and the silent tension during serious scenes made me believe that the Black Box did a good job of putting on Fiddler.”
Freshman Oliva Mack portrayed Nachum, a beggar. She said the quality of the cast made the production special. “I think the story we were telling needed a special touch and more than the average amount of consideration,” she said. “I felt the people chosen for this play were made for their roles and the story we were telling. The one thing I’ll remember about bringing this story to the stage was the reaction from Rabbi Jordon. He was amazed at what we put on for a high school musical. I was so glad we made him proud.”
Senior Ainsley Schulte portrayed Fruma Sarah, the deceased ex-wife of the butcher Lazar Wolfe. “My character comes to Tevye in a dream to tell him that if he marries his daughter, Tzeitel, to Lazar, then she will come to her in three weeks’ time and kill her,” Schulte said. “Portraying this role was absolutely challenging, as I was rolled around the stage on an elevated platform, prohibiting me from using my legs and only allowing me to show emotion using my face, arms and vocal choices. The entire show was a challenging endeavor, as the whole cast had to accurately portray different aspects of the lives of these Jewish people who were being persecuted by the Russians during the 1900s. We had to learn about the culture and how to properly execute their traditions and beliefs, as these things happened to real people and still happen to the Jewish people today. The show was beautiful, powerful and an outstanding production for the Black Box Company, and we could not have done it without Ms. McGill, our director, Clay Donaldson, our choreographer, and Beth Bordelon, our music director.”
Junior Kayla McConnell portrayed Bielke, the youngest daughter of Tevye. “I enjoyed telling the story from a child’s perspective growing up in a Jewish family,” she said. “This production was very special because we told the story of Jews in Russia and how they were forced out of their homes and sometimes killed. I will always remember how much I learned about the religion and how horrible things actually were. Also, getting close to my cast is something I’ll never forget. This production means the world to me, and I’m so glad I got to have the opportunity to get close with each and every one of them.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos by Francis Dinh and Jennifer M. Fontaine