Tag Archives: Tevye

Fiddler On The Roof Character Review: Fyedka

This will be my last character review post for Fiddler On The Roof. The next story/group of characters I will be writing about is……I’m not telling you. You will just have to come back to this blog and find out.  

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the musical Fiddler On The Roof. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie or any of the stage adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Fiddler On The Roof to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Prejudice is unfortunately part and parcel of our daily lives. But even with the hatred and prejudice, there are still some that see the person, not the label based on culture or religion. In Fiddler On The Roof, most of the major characters are Jewish. There are a handful of non-Jewish characters, but for the most part, they are background players.

Except for Fyedka.

Fyedka is a young man of the Christian faith who falls in love with Chava, Tevye and Golde’s middle daughter. She is equally in love with him. But a marriage between a Jew and Christian, especially in pre-revolutionary Russia was a big no-no. Unlike his compatriots, Fyedka does not harass his Jewish neighbors. He is open-minded and treats them with courtesy and respect.

To sum it up: Sometimes a writer has to break the mold when creating a character. Fyedka could have been a stereotype, a Russian Christian peasant who hates his Jewish neighbors because they are Jews. But because he is compassionate, respectful and open-minded, he is proof that tolerance, understanding and dialogue between people of different cultures and religions is possible. The reader and the writer just has to be willing to take the first step.

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Fiddler On The Roof Character Review: Chava

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the musical Fiddler On The Roof. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie or any of the stage adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Fiddler On The Roof to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

These days, it’s not uncommon to date or marry outside of one’s culture or religion. But we don’t have to travel back too far in history to a time when the worst thing a person could do was choose a spouse who was not part of their religion or culture. In Fiddler On The Roof, Chava is the third of Tevye and Golde’s five daughters. While her older sisters take baby steps when it comes to choosing their spouses, Chava takes a giant leap above her sisters. Not only does she marry a Christian boy, Fyedka, without her parent’s knowledge or approval, but also converts away from Judaism in the process.

Her father reacts as one would expect him to react. He pushes her away while she pleads for his blessing. In the end, Chava receives her father’s blessing for her marriage, if only reluctantly.

To sum it up: Some characters take baby steps toward who they will be. Others take giant steps toward that future persona. Neither is right or wrong, it is determined by the narrative and character arc. What the writer has to do is make sure that the arc for that particular character is organic and natural. If the character’s journey feels forced and inorganic, the reader/audience will know it. The last thing any writer wants is for their narrative and characters to feel forced and inorganic, it is a surefire way to push away the audience or reader. That is the last thing any writer wants.

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Fiddler On The Roof Character Review: Perchik

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the musical Fiddler On The Roof. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie or any of the stage adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Fiddler On The Roof to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Revolutions are usually not started by the elder generation who are sometimes content to rest on their laurels and let life go on. Revolutions are usually started by young people who are idealistic, angry and willing to use their voice to fight against what they feel is an injustice. These young people are also the ones who are trying to shake the dust of off their elders and show them that the world is changing.

In Fiddler On The Roof, the idea of revolution is represented by the character of Perchik. Perchik is a young man who has come to Anatevka to shake the denizens out of their doldrums. Idealistic, modern and outspoken, Perchik does not exactly get along with his new neighbors, but Tevye is willing to give Perchik a chance. Perchik starts tutoring Tevye’s youngest daughters and starts on a Beatrice and Benedick relationship with Hodel, Tevye’s second eldest daughter.

Eventually Perchik gets up the courage to propose to Hodel, even though is not the most conventional of proposals. But before they can wed, Perchik is caught up in trouble and is sent to Siberia.

To sum it up: one way to see change in a character or a narrative is to introduce the idea of revolution, whether it is social, cultural or financial. The writers wisely used Perchik to represent the wider revolution that would engulf the world in Fiddler On The Roof as a whole. For a writer, it is more about how he or she uses change rather than just the act of the change itself. The change will happen, it is just a matter of how the writer enacts the change that affects the outcome of the whole story, not just the character who represents the change.

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Fiddler On The Roof Character Review: Hodel

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the musical Fiddler On The Roof. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie or any of the stage adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Fiddler On The Roof to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

There is only one certainty in life: change. In Fiddler On The Roof, Hodel is the second of Tevye and Golde’s five daughters. In the beginning of the story, Hodel states her choice of her future husband: the Rabbi’s son. Her elder sister, Tzeitel is quick to burst her bubble. Their father is a dairyman.  Daughters of dairymen do not marry Rabbi’s sons. Being the smart ass that she, Hodel laughs it off.

Then Perchik enters the picture. Perchik is a young man traveling through Anatevka who has ideas that do not mesh well with the locals. While tutoring Hodel’s younger sisters, it becomes clear that there is chemistry between her and Perchik. But when the time comes, Hodel will have to make a decision: stay with her family or follow Perchik into the unknown.

To sum it up: In choosing to join Perchik in Siberia instead of staying in Anatevka, Hodel is willing to accept change. Even if it means that she may never see her family again. Change often comes whether we like it or not. As writers, when we create a character who is faced with change, how the character deals with the change is a mark of their character. It’s up to the writer to determine if the character will accept the change or fight it.

 

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Fiddler on the Roof Character Review: Motel

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the musical Fiddler On The Roof. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie or any of the stage adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Fiddler On The Roof to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Any writer worth their salt will tell you that one of the basic elements of a story is a character arc. The character starts off in one place and ends in another place. One of the under used common character arcs is that of a character who find the confidence to speak up for himself or herself and while doing so, makes their dream a reality.

In Fiddler On The Roof, the audience is introduced to Motel as Tzeitel’s childhood playmate and hopeful intended. The problem is that he is a poor tailor and Tzeitel’s parents have chosen a husband for their daughter who is higher on the social and economic scale. The problem is that every time he tries to ask Tevye for his blessing, he bumbles it up. Motel, to put it bluntly, in the beginning of the story needs to grow a backbone.

He does so, by finally asking Tevye to break tradition by asking for his blessing to marry Tzeitel.  It’s not easy, especially considering the strict rules of the era and the fact that he is quite terrified of Tevye when we meet him initially. But he does so, in spite of the fear and receives the blessing he has hoped for.

To sum it up: Motel’s journey reminds me of one of my favorite Carrie Fisher quotes:

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

Motel’s journey feels very human. Sometimes the one thing we need to succeed when taking a risk is confidence, even if we don’t feel we have it. Motel takes the risk, knowing that Tevye could easily say no and force his daughter to marry the much older and wealthier butcher. But Tevye says yes and Motel’s risk pays off. In life as in fiction, taking a risk and having the confidence to do so is never easy. The outcome of the risk is not guaranteed. But we’ll never know until we try.

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Fiddler On The Roof Character Review: Tzeitel

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the musical Fiddler On The Roof. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie or any of the stage adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Fiddler On The Roof to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Love, especially young love, creates new sensations and a new reality. Especially when one lives in a repressive society where marriage is not based on love, but on family status and income. In Fiddler On The Roof, Tzeitel is the oldest of Tevye and Golde’s five daughters. She knows that marriage is in the cards for her immediate future. She also knows that in her world, she has no say in choosing her husband.

The husband that has been chosen for her is Lazar Wolf, the local butcher. The problem with Lazar is two-fold: first, that he is much older than she is. The second is that she is in love and has agreed to marry Motel, her childhood sweetheart. Her father does not know about Motel and might force her to marry Lazar instead of Motel.

In the end, Tzeitel marries the man she loves, but not before experiencing a few obstacles.

To sum it up: A young woman in love is not a new character trope or narrative. It is up to the writer to distinguish this very basic character and narrative in order for their story to stand out. In Fiddler on the Roof, Tzeitel is willing to break tradition just to marry the man she loves. In her era, women are second class citizens. The only career open to them is marriage and motherhood. By standing up for her love and her future, Tzeitel is taking a small, but important step toward feminism and female autonomy.

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Fiddler On The Roof Character Review: Golde

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the musical Fiddler On The Roof. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie or any of the stage adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Fiddler On The Roof to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Some say that men are the rulers in their homes, the kings of their very own castle. As much as I would like to believe it, that is in fact a lie. The reality is that the woman is in charge of the house and the family.

“The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants”-My Big Fat Greek Wedding

In Fiddler On The Roof, Tevye thinks he is in charge at home. His wife, Golde, knows the truth. Golde is the ying to her husband’s yang. Golde is a realist, not afraid to tell it like it is and occasionally burst Teyve’s fantasy like bubble. Her husband is a dairy man whose income is on the lower end of the economic scale. Considering that they have five daughters to house, cloth, raise and feed, Golde’s position is not an easy one.

Like all couples in that culture, their marriage was not a love match, but an arraigned marriage. While there is no fairy tale like romance between Tevye and Golde, they remain loyal to each other and do the best they can to keep their family afloat.

To sum it: Golde is no one’s fool and no one’s pushover. She is smart, capable and does what she needs to do so her family can survive, even under the most difficult of circumstances. When a writer creates a character like Golde, he or she is walking a writing tightrope: the character must be firmly rooted in the world she lives in, while creating an undercurrent which will shape the destines of future generations. Golde may appear to be just another wife and mother, but it is her strength and courage that will inspire future generations of women to change the world.

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Fiddler On The Roof Character Review: Tevye

*Warning: This post contains spoilers in regards to the narrative and characters from the musical Fiddler On The Roof. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie or any of the stage adaptations.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Fiddler On The Roof to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

The every man or the every woman has been used as the emotional skeleton of a character by any number of writers over the centuries for a reason. He or she has a universal quality that any audience member or reader can relate to. In Fiddler On The Roof, Tevye is not only the main character, but an every man.

Married with five daughters, Tevye earns a meager living as a dairyman in early 20th century Russia. Like any good father and husband, he is doing the best he can to provide for his family. He is also a stubborn man who is clinging to his beliefs in an era when things are changing. But while he can be insanely stubborn at times, he can also be progressive and is willing to let his children live their own lives as they see fit. Even, if that means going against the spoken and unspoken rules of his society and era.

To sum it up: The reason that Tevye speaks to so many of us is that he is just an average Joe. The audience does not have to be Jewish or have roots in Eastern Europe to understand Tevye or the reasons for his actions. He speaks to all of us because he is trying to do the best he can while balancing a changing world and his own foibles. If a writer can create this character, they are likely too succeed because of the universality of the character and the audience’s ability to relate to that character.

 

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Reasons To See Fiddler On The Roof (If You Have Not Seen It Already)

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing Fiddler On The Roof for the second time.

Based on the stories by Sholem Aleichem, Fiddler On The Roof is the tale of Tevye (played in the current production by Danny Burstein), his family, his world and how both are changing.

Here are my reasons to see Fiddler On The Roof, if you have not seen it already.

  1. You don’t have to be Jewish to get the story. Tevye is a husband and father just trying to get by and do right by his family. We can all relate to that.
  2. It is the story of clinging to traditions in the face of adversity and change. In our increasing secular and technology driven world, it becomes harder to keep to the traditions of our family and our culture.
  3. There is a strong element of feminism running through Fiddler. Tevye has no sons and five daughters. In that community and that time, young people did not marry for love. They married because the town matchmaker chose their spouse and the father agreed to the match. His three eldest daughters, Tzeitel, Hodel and Chava choose their own husbands. If feminism is defined as a woman choosing to live life on her terms and if her only choice is marriage, then choosing of one’s spouse based on affection and mutual interests (as opposed to social status or income) is a feminist act.
  4. This is the story of refugees. At the end of the musical, the Jewish citizens of Anatevka are forced out of their homes and out of the shtetl they have called home for generations. The addition of the red parka worn by Burstein at the beginning and the end of the piece highlight how relevant this story still is. Nearly every day, we open the newspaper or turn on the evening news and hear about stories of refugees leaving heir homes due to persecution or war.
  5. Fiddler On The Roof is the penultimate act for a world that ceased to exist 70 years ago. A generation after Fiddler ends, communities like Anatevka will be decimated and her Jews slaughtered by the Nazis.
  6. Chava’s marriage to Fyedka. In some parts of the world, a mixed marriage is still considered controversial.
  7. For audience members who, like myself who are Jewish and can trace their ancestry to Eastern Europe, it is a snapshot of the world our ancestors knew.
  8. Sunrise, Sunset. There is no more universal song from Fiddler than Sunrise, Sunset. When we are parents, as much as we want to do for our children, we have to recognize that they must grow up and live life on their own terms.

This production is wonderful. I highly recommend it and I also recommend that anyone interested in seeing Fiddler On The Roof should get tickets immediately as the show closes on Dec 31.

Fiddler On The Roof is at The Broadway Theater, 1681 Broadway, NY NY 10019. 

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Fiddler On The Roof

The opening song Of Fiddler On The Roof is Tradition.

It speaks of a way of life that has been the standard for generations. But change is on the horizon.

Based on the stories by Sholem Aleichem, the original Broadway production premiered in 1964. 7 years later, the movie Fiddler On The Roof made it’s way to the big screen. Tevye (Topol) and Golde (Norma Crane) are a Jewish peasant middle aged couple with 5 daughters living in pre-revolutionary Russia. The world around them is changing. Their daughters are not content to let the local matchmaker and their parents determine whom they will marry. Outside forces are eager to see their Jewish neighbors forced out of the land they have lived and worked on for generations.

All great stories have a universality to them. Fiddler is no different. The themes of change and being fearful of that change, the dynamic between the older generations who want to keep everything as is and the younger generations eager of something new, watching your child grow up and make decisions that you might not approve of.

This show is part of my cultural DNA. I come  from this world, my great grandparents left the shtetls of Eastern Europe for America at the turn of the 20th century. I was lucky enough to see the 2004 Broadway revival. When the movie is on, I find myself singing along with the characters.

I recommend this movie.

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