Thursday, November 1, 2018

Kelly Hall-Tompkins: Fiddler on the Roof, As Relevant Today As Ever

"Your father, the others here think that what happened at Tzeitel's wedding was just a little cloudburst, and it's over, and everything will now be peaceful again.  It won't.  Horrible things are happening throughout the land: pogroms, violence.  Whole villages are being emptied of their people.  It's reaching everywhere and it will reach here."  
"Perchik" in Fiddler on the Roof
Observing the times we are living, I cannot help but reflect on my 13 months performing as the violin soloist for Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway.  In addition to the thrill of playing to a packed theater 8 shows a week, poignant acting, dazzling dancing, soaring music and the magic of Broadway,  I also loved it because it felt like we were doing important work.  We were griots, artists embodying for our time the retelling of the poignant, cautionary tale.  Each night as I absorbed “Perchik’s” words and the scene of the pogrom, it became clearer that we were not just taking a historic look back to 1905, but also an uncomfortable look into our own county’s apparent future.  This time last year, I was able to walk into the story of Fiddler on the Roof by visiting the modern Anatevka near Kiev, Ukraine.  From the joy of taking part in the first wedding in Anatevka in 100 years, to the tragedy of Baba Yar, which we visited as I listened to the Shostakovich Symphony of the same title, it was an incredible experience and a visceral, unforgettable reminder of the lessons of Fiddler.  I also think of my late friend Alfred Mur and remember, through the Holocaust Memoir I published for him, the unimaginable things that he endured.  One can only hope that we as a nation will have the clarity and the courage to rise to the better angels of our nature.  But one thing is clear, Fiddler on the Roof is as relevant today as ever. 

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