While browsing through hundreds of photos on a computer at home, looking for a good photo of my mother for Mothers’ Day, I came across this photo of myself as Tevye in Lifesong Theatre Group‘s production of Fiddler on the Roof. The next morning, I turned on NPR in the car and got in on the end of a Studio 360 story on the history of the Broadway musical, two years after its 50th anniversary. Fiddler is one of the highest grossing, longest running in Broadway history.
The photo alone was enough to take me back to an emotion-packed experience for me. In some ways I found myself relating to Tevye’s ongoing dialog with God, particularly, at that time in my life, his complaints to God about his circumstances. The fact that he felt free to openly address his concerns to God revealed a very present faith on the one hand, with room for doubts and questions on the other.
The story of Fiddler, which originated as a series of short stories published in 1894 called Tevye the Dairy Man by Sholom Aleichem, continues to resonate on so many levels. In an age where cultural change is only accelerating, it challenges our ability to deal with change while reexamining the traditions we hold dear. It also reminds us, as Tevye and his family and friends are driven out of the village of Anatevka by the Bolsheviks and face a new life in America, that in the 21st century we are all nations of immigrants. The story takes us inside the mind and heart of someone who is being forced from their centuries-long homeland, giving the word “refugee” a face and a life.
In the United States, we have talked so much about the American dream and the Land of Opportunity that we risk assuming everyone wants to come here — unless we ourselves have experienced what it’s like to huddle with the few we know, longing for home, against a mass of strangers in a strange land.
These are the people my wife and I are soon going to be meeting in Greece. For them, the fiddler still represents the precarious balance between keeping traditions and dealing with change. I look forward with mixed emotions to the experience. I’m pretty certain that I’m not quite prepared for the barrage of emotions awaiting us, but I’m quite certain one of them will be a feeling of helplessness against the plight of the Syrians, Afghans and others who have been forced out of their homes.
I’ll be documenting our experiences on this blog, as well as occasional vlogs and possibly Blab sessions. Stay tuned for an adventure that you’re invited to live with us vicariously. Better yet, sign up below as a member of the “culturally curious” tribe so you don’t miss a thing.
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