Tradition, Resilience- To Life!

The JFed Players Present Fiddler on the Roof

Tradition—the word that most likely comes to mind when one thinks of the iconic musical, Fiddler on the Roof. The story and the music are well-known to most, whether seen on the stage or screen. Based on “Tevye and his Daughters,” a collection of stories by Sholem Aleichem, Fiddler on the Roof is more than a tale of a man dealing with everyday trials and tribulations in a small village. It is a story of one man grappling with a world that is quickly changing around him, challenging the long-held traditions that have been accepted without question in his world—until now. As Tevye says, “Because of our traditions, everyone here knows who he is and what G-d wants him to do.”    
    But the traditions that have guided the lives of Tevye and his neighbors may not hold against the onslaught of the modern world. For instance, arranged marriages had been the norm for countless generations, but are challenged. As Tevye is approached by his eldest daughters, one by one, each telling him she has fallen in love and wants to marry without benefit of the traditional matchmaker, his traditional view of the world of marriage changes and he struggles to understand this modern idea of “love.” After all, love was not something to be looked for before marriage, or even at all. Many times, a man and wife met on their wedding day. Confronted by challenges to tradition at every turn, Tevye often confers with G-d, looking for guidance in his ever-changing world. Through Tevye’s eyes, Fiddler chronicles the transition between the old and new, and how people cope, or not, with the eventuality of change. At its heart, Fiddler on the Roof is a story of family, resilience, and the closeness of community.
  Fiddler on the Roof, book by Joseph Stein, music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick respectively, premiered on Broadway on September 22, 1964 – 60 years ago this year. The musical has been produced every year since then, in many different languages and in many different countries. The story is timeless and relatable, no matter where the show has been produced, among Jews and non-Jews alike. In a recent documentary entitled “Fiddler: Wonder of Wonders,” a woman in Japan was surprised to learn that the musical has been performed in English, as it was “their” story; when it was produced at a university in Thailand, the students were skeptical. As they rehearsed, they found it was their story as well. Although Fiddler is set in the little Jewish shtetel of Anatevka in 1900, the themes are universal—acceptance versus being ostracized, change versus tradition, the importance of community and family.
  The Cultural Arts Program of the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys started thirteen years ago with a seed of an idea—creating another way to connect members of the community through the arts. At that time, Dr. Stuart Miller, then vice-president of the Jewish Federation, Jason Moss, the Executive Director, and Cantor Judy Sofer met and discussed this little seed of an idea. It was germinated and, over time, has sprouted into a thriving program with several facets, the most prominent of which is the JFed Players Community Theater Ensemble, which has blossomed into a thriving theater community. Its primary mission is to produce plays with Jewish themes by Jewish authors and/or composers. In the years since its inception, great care has been taken to find plays and musicals with a Jewish connection. So, what better way to celebrate this milestone year, along with our Jewish Federation’s 30th Anniversary, than with Fiddler on the Roof, our 26th production.
    Just as Fiddler on the Roof is a story of community, tradition, and resilience, so is the story of the JFed Players. Ask any of its members and they will most likely say that this little band of thespians is itself like a community, even a family. Coming together for a singular purpose—to showcase Jewish contributions to American culture through theater and music, each cast bonds in a unique way, often resulting in lasting friendships.
    The JFed Players are also resilient. Without a theater of their own, they have managed to stage performances in three different venues without interruption. Some members have left the ensemble due to the inevitable challenges, changes, and shortness of life.  Yet the JFed Players, under the leadership of Cantor Judy Sofer, has persevered and thrived, presenting both virtual and live performances even during the COVID pandemic, when many other theater companies were forced to close—some forever. With each show, new people join the community, on stage, backstage, and in the audience.
  The JFed Players are proud to produce Fiddler on the Roof, directed by Cantor Judy Sofer, opening on April 6, 2024, 8:00pm at Porticos Art Space with an opening night reception honoring Dr. Stuart Miller. The talented cast is working hard to bring Anatevka to life!   

Lori McKenna is a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.


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