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June 26, 2008


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Recently I was in a production of Fiddler on the Roof (sympathies accepted). The guy who played Tevye had a great voice and is a pretty decent actor. About halfway through the rehearsal process, I, the beggar, started thinking about what I would do if I were Tevye.

And I thought about what happens to Tevye and how I would react if I were really in his shoes. Not just the actor's shoes but really in Tevye's shoes.

I'd be afraid. I'd be absolutely, positively, 100% terrified. I'd be so scared that my family was going to fall apart, that my traditions that had upheld me for my entire life and for many many generations in the past were going to fall. I'd be worried that my life as I knew it was going to end.

And it does.

Jason did a decent job with Tevye. His vocals were pretty awesome. However, his portrayal of Tevye came across more as... anger and rage than anything else. He was ANGRY when Tzeitel and Motel announced their engagement. Just as he was ANGRY when his other daughters announced their engagements. He was ANGRY when the Russians came in and said "You gotta leave."

It was okay. I mean, it worked, but I feel like a stronger choice would have been to play it as fear rather than anger. The end result would be a very small difference from the audience's perspective, but if done right, it would add a whole new level of depth to Tevye's character. He's not just the angry father. He's the angry father who's about to lose everything.

Everyone's been in a situation where they're afraid of losing the status quo. Recently, Chicago was about to pass a law that would limit theatre artists' ability to perform by imposing fines. There was a huge backlash from the theatre community. They were angry, yes. But they were afraid. And that was infinitely more resonant to me than if they were just pissed off.

So, to answer your question, I don't think it's so important that it needs to be the primary focus of art. However, it does need to be addressed at some point, and addressing it WELL will provide an increase in resonance and depth for the play.


Maybe this isn't a question for a director, but an actor needs to know it, right? Don't people usually at least THINK they know what they want and why they're taking the action they're taking?

And I'd LOVE to do FIDDLER ...

Jennifer Gordon Thomas

you're asking some interesting questions these days, isaac. my take is that people rarely know their own motivations, much less those of others. it takes a fairly high level of consciousness to be continually aware of your own motivations.
for me, as an actor, the only real value of determining a character's motivations are how they might effect behavior.

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