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The Current Refugee Crisis: A Tradition as Shaky as a Fiddler on the Roof

thumb_2_Fiddler on the Roof - Refugee Crisis.jpg

The Current Refugee Crisis:
A Tradition as Shaky as a Fiddler on the Roof

By Mikaiya Gude

“Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on a roof”. For fifty years, the Golden Age musical, Fiddler on the Roof, has deeply impacted audiences with its splendid score and poignant storyline. With honest simplicity, it follows the eviction of a Jewish family scrambling to make a living in Tsarist Russia. But the power of the piece is rooted in history. Neither multiple adaptations, nor time itself have eroded its historical significance. In fact, the true message of this production has never rung truer. As we currently exist in a world of political turmoil and prejudice, we can take to heart the characters oppression in its connection to contemporary refugees.

Prior to Fiddler’s theatrical debut, it was a novel. Written by Joseph Stein in 1905, it was based upon an earlier collection of Yiddish stories by Sholem Aleichem. Within these myriad of Jewish tales, Aleichem recounted the joy and struggles of a poor milkman. His was named Tevye, and would become the inspiration for the protagonist in one of the longest running productions in Broadway history. But Aleichem drew his sources for his character’s struggle from a darker place. During this Tsarist period in Russia, a series of brutal pogroms deteriorated 166 Jewish communities. Anatevka, the fictitious village in Fiddler on the Roof, is subject to the same harsh historical occurrences. The title Fiddler on the Roof is an idiom illustrating how their fragile existence was on the brink of danger and tragedy.

The story of Fiddler on the Roof is a balancing act in itself. The leading man and father, Tevye, is constantly conflicted between his desire to lead a pious life guided by the teachings of the Torah, and his paternal instinct to fulfill his daughters more liberal wishes. Ultimately, Tevye compels us to ask ourselves, is tradition a constraint, or the backbone of culture? Not only did this delicate equilibrium pose a struggle within a family setting, but rather encompassed society as a whole. Tsarist Russia required, with threat of brutality, the Jewish to acquiesce to rules and regulations. Simultaneously, the Jewish attempted to perform their religious practices in private.

Fast forward to a century later. The internet and press is teeming with articles recounting yet another wave of refugees. Images of weather­beaten, stick-­thin families in rags swarm social media platforms. We are witnessing the same crisis portrayed in one of America’s most beloved musicals. But this time the story has a different leading man, Syria. The Syrian refugee crisis has exploded to over two million who have fled their country. Another four million have been displaced, totaling in a startling figure of six million refugees forced into eviction. But let us bear in mind, Syrians are only one of the suffering demographics on our planet. The issue expands much farther. Once again, history has returned, haunting us with humanitarian nightmares. In response, cries for a resolution are passionate and wide­spread. As Fiddler on the Roof makes its return to the Broadway stage, this inspired adaption is as relevant as ever. In fact, Tevye, played by Danny Burstein, starts the play wearing a contemporary jacket, and ending with it on, to symbolize modern refugees. While a modest gesture, it speaks loudly of the advocacy in the arts today.

Analy High School’s production class will be sharing their own interpretation of this iconic piece in April. The director, Starr Hergenrather, was drawn to this rich and towering story of a people’s strength and resilience for its modern­day relevance. Hergenrather, an outspoken individual where social issues are concerned, channels her compassion for refugees directly into the show. April 8th through 16th, come let your heart soar with bittersweet emotion, sing with timeless classics, and be dazzled by the famous bottle dance. Fiddler on the Roof is sure to instill a warm­hearted recognition for the real refugees in our world.

PS: In order to deliver some warmth to the lives of Syrian refugees, please donate any spare clothing items to the production room, located directly across the hall from the auditorium.


“Without our traditions...well, our lives would be as shaky as...a Fiddler on a Roof!

Award-winning Analy Arts proudly presents Fiddler on the Roof with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, set in Imperial Russia in 1905. 

The story centers on Tevye, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon the family’s lives. He must cope both with the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters, who wish to marry for love – each one’s choice of a husband moves further away from the customs of his faith – and with the edict of the Tsar that evicts the Jews from their village. 

People around the world are still facing these exact same challenges...and the beat goes on...

“...everyone of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune, without breaking our neck.” 

The director-producer is Starr Hergenrather, the musical director is Kelly Stewart, vocal direction is by Janis Dunson Wilson, and the choreographer is Jennifer More.

Tickets: General Admission $12; Students/seniors $10; students w/ID $8, At the Door: $18 & $15; Students w/ID $8. 1 (800) 838-3006

April dates: Fri 8, Sat 9, Fri 15, Sat 16 at 7pm. Sunday, Apr. 10 at 1:30 pm. The only matinee is Thur, Apr. 14 at 6:30pm, to Benefit for Sebastopol World Friends/Ukraine $12 at Door ONLY.

Analy High School, 6950 Analy Ave., Sebastopol;