Every year, the Babson Players alumni group puts on a summer production at Babson College. The show takes place on campus, and since I have not lived near Boston since graduating, I have never been able to participate.
As COVID turned life into virtual reality, and our lives became anchored over a computer screen, so did this year's alumni production. An unexpected positive outcome of the virus was that, with no in person rehearsals possible, the Players were pushing forward with their summer show but doing so over Zoom. To my utter delight, I am thrilled to say that for the first time in ten years, I am acting with the Babson Players again as Dromio of Syracuse in The Comedy of Errors.
The Players were and are a group that brought me the most joy and the happiest memories during my time in college. Who I became was greatly shaped by that 'club,' which was so much more than that. I distinctly remember that after a long day, knowing a rehearsal would be at the end of it energized me and made me feel like I had somewhere I really belonged. Being on stage felt comfortable, and the people I was surrounded by were kind, fun, and like minded.
I was determined to continue my stage pursuit, both during college and after, and moved to New York to carve out a career for myself in theatre. I loved performing and felt compelled to make acting a full time career, but after a few years I began to feel the exhaustion of rejection, and the burnout of taking jobs I didn't really believe in to earn more money and another credit on my resume. Deciding to leave acting made me feel like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders, and I felt fulfilled in other pursuits and creative career choices.
What I wasn't able to realize until now was that just because I moved away from a professional theatre career didn't mean I had to stop doing the thing that gave me the most joy. I could have let go of the hustle, but I didn't' have to walk away from the happiness I felt in channeling different emotions, playing new characters, and (let's be honest) being a general ham. This show has allowed me to let go of any need to 'prove myself' as an artist, and it has brought the fun of theatre back into my life.
When this show is over (view it here on July 31 - please tune in!), I'm going to continue to look for other community theatre opportunities, virtually and, once we can start coming together again, in real life. I'm sorry it's taken me this long to figure out that I could leave the stress and keep the fun, but now that I see that I'm not turning back. A family friend of ours (who, incidentally, has had an excellent career in entertainment) once said, "the only bad theatre is no theatre." Time to take that advice for myself.
For me, Fiddler on the Roof is the rare piece of art that evokes nostalgia without schmaltz, and somehow incites a myriad of emotions every time you see it. This production, even more so than others, stung my eyes with tears and caught in my throat the moment the company stepped onstage singing “Tradition” (or “Traditsye”). The emotion, which is always there in the show, was brought to new levels of realness, feeling, and understanding in this particular revival.
My tears hardly stopped during the entirety of the production. Whether out of laughter due to a babbling matchmaker, sentimentality as the company sang “Sunrise, Sunset,” heartache for a community grappling with religious persecution, or even just the sheer sweetness of a poor tailor finally saving enough money to get a sewing machine, my cheeks were rarely dry.
The set, while minimal, was stunning, as though parchments of the Torah hung around each corner of the stage, a constant reminder of the characters’ faith, and the solid foundation on which they built their lives. Subtitles were extremely well done and unobtrusive, on each side panel of the stage.
It naturally makes sense to tell the story of A Fiddler on the Roof right now. The history should never be forgotten, but we are sadly seeing it repeated day after day through religious persecution, uprooting of families, and fear and bigotry of “the other” all over the world, and close to home. A Fiddler on the Roof shows us just how similar we all are, as a family that could easily be my own or my neighbor grapples with tales as old as time - letting go of the past, embracing the future, and making sense and balance of the two. Last week, there were points when I didn’t even feel like I was watching a show. The performance solely in Yiddish made me feel as though I was peering into a window, observing a day in the life of a regular family bound to a tragic fate. Rejoicing at their triumphs, laughing at their jokes, and desperately wanting to protect them from the tragedies and anti-Semitism they were forced to endure.
A Fidler Afn Dakh was one of the best productions I’ve seen in a very long time. The show’s three hours moves at a remarkably brisk pace, is bursting with musical theatre greats in acting, voice, and dance, and reminds us of where we’ve come from, and the journeys that still lie ahead.
Reflecting on my experiences with the world, my neighborhood, and my home.