From Performance to the Pit

people at theater

Photo by Monica Silvestre on Pexels.com

Fiddler on the Roof is a good selection for a local theater group, with all its sentimental and well-known songs. But once when it was performed in my town, things didn’t go quite as planned.

My husband decided to join the cast and make use of his marvelous baritone for the first time in years. He said his one line (“It was a horse!”) clearly and at just the right time. He celebrated and fell off his barstool on cue and left Anatevka sorrowfully. He sang and danced in the chorus with gusto.

The only thing was, he played parts of his role a bit too convincingly. He fell off his stool, as required at a party scene, but he always landed so that half of his body stuck out past where the curtain fell. Since he wouldn’t break character, the other performers had to drag him back before they could reset for the next scene.

And he had trouble with the lyrics.

This was not a recent problem. He still thinks that CCR sang “There’s a bathroom on the right.” But with Fiddler, he was positively innovative. Sometimes, instead of “I Belong in Anatevka,” he sang, “I Belong Under Anesthesia.” Or “Anastasia,” which must have disrupted the chorus no end.

But the biggest problem was with his costume. Since it was a local amateur production, there was no budget for wardrobe. Everyone made do with what they had on hand. My husband had a pair of corduroy pants, some leather boots, and a baggy shirt that were deemed acceptable.

That left his glasses. Horn rims were not considered period. So he had to perform without vision correction for his extreme nearsightedness.

And so he acted and danced. There was a real danger when he danced; he hora’d his way not just past the curtain, but close to the edge of the stage. And closer. And closer. Another chorus member grabbed his sleeve and dragged him back, just before he landed unceremoniously but noisily right in the orchestra pit. That person was thereafter assigned to dance next to him, hold onto his sleeve, and drag him in the right direction if necessary. Likewise, someone had to guide him behind the scenes to make entrances from the other side of the stage so he didn’t wander into the parking lot.

It was actually quite a good production of the musical. At the end, when the townspeople left Anatevka, performers dressed as ghosts waved goodbye to them, which was a lovely touch. And no one, including Dan, was injured during the performance.

Afterward, at the cast party, Dan was singled out for particular recognition. He even received an award.

It read, “Best Portrayal of a Sighted Jew by a Blind Gentile.”

He had worked hard for it. He had earned it and he framed it. It still hangs on our wall. If he gets new glasses, maybe he can even read it.

 

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