Klaglahachie Fine Art Society is bringing 20th century Russia to Ponoka with The Fiddler on the Roof, a story of love and tragedy seen through the eyes of poor, hardworking Jews.
Fiddler on the Roof is set in the small Russian village of Anatevka. The play centres on Tevye, his wife, Golde, and their five daughters; Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shprintze and Bielke.
The three eldest daughters are around marrying age, but rather than be matched up they decide to break tradition, choose their own husbands and marry for love.
However, tragedy is always lurking in Anatevka and a key element within the play, partially guiding Jewish villagers fates, are the pogroms that terrorized Jews in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Pogroms were organized, large-scale anti-Jewish riots that wounded and killed thousands of Jews. Some thought they were organized by the authorities, others believed they were just officially tolerated.
The play, directed by Kevin Ferguson, features a close-knit cast of Klaglahachie veterans and newcomers.
Although rehearsals only started in September by the time the Nov. 25 dress rehearsal rolled around it seemed as if everyone involved was born for this play.
The songs in the play are a fantastic medley of tragic love songs and rollicking celebrations. Each one belted out with indisputable talent that matches the rhythm of the song and atmosphere of the play.
Although Fiddler on the Roof has darker undertones it is still a story of love and triumph, with some comedy added in to allow the audience to relax and smooth out the finger dents they’re created in their armrests.
The three different backdrops created for the play are phenomenal pieces of artwork that bring the world of Anatevka to life. They also serve as perfect accent pieces to enhance the scenes of the play.
Evident, even in just a rehearsal, was the emotion and force each actor and actress channeled into their roles. Some of that emotion is drawn from the cast’s real life experiences.
Ken Robinson, who plays Tevye, draws on the experience of being a father to play one on stage. However, he says his experience and Tevye’s are vastly different.
“I like being on stage, it adds so much flavour to my own life,” he said.
There’s a scene in the play where one of Tevye’s daughters leaves and Robinson said each time they rehearse that part always gets to him and his tears are real. “I became very emotionally involved.”
Megan Sweet, who plays Tzeitel, also becomes genuinely emotional during the play, especially when her character is told she can’t marry for love. “I think that would be really crappy … I get really upset.”
Sweet also worked with Klaglahachie last year and couldn’t wait to get back on stage. “I wanted to keep doing it. I really enjoy it and I like the people.”
Erin Schmale, who plays Hodel, was also excited to take part in the play. “It’s the kind of play I’ve always wanted to do, I’ve always wanted to be in it.”
Schmale is also able to play her favorite character from the movie. After watching it she fell in love with Hodel’s song Far From the Home I Love.
The youngest of the sisters, Bielke, played by Rebekah Stretch, also draws on her own life for inspiration. Stretch started acting around five years old and this is her 10th play. “I was always really shy when I wasn’t acting or singing but not shy when I was.”
For Andrew Jacobs, who plays Motel, Tzeitel’s love, this is his fifth time working with Klaglahachie. Like his cast mates, Jacobs also became personally involved in the play.
Motel goes through a transformation during the play and Jacobs says believing the play makes portraying that easier.
“I have to believe I’m a boy, I have to believe I’m a man,” he said. “It’s very real and the emotions are real.”
Jacobs says the more he believes the play is real the more the audience will believe.
“I love it. I love every part of it. When you’re up there on stage you’re just away from it all. For that moment you’re not yourself.”
Fiddler on the Roof performances with dinner will be held Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. 7 and 8. Sunday’s dinnerless matinees will be held Dec. 2 and 9.
All performances will be held at the Ponoka United Church.