Large cast works together to get in tune for 'Fiddler on the Roof' at Aurora Community Theatre

by April Helms | Special Products editor Published:

Twinsburg Resident Mark Durbin said he remembered an interesting incident about 10 years ago. He was in a production of "Oliver" at the Twinsburg Community Theatre, where he played Fagin.

"After one show, this lady comes up to me out of the blue and said to me 'next up for you is Tevye," Durbin said.

This woman's words would turn out to be prophetic: Durbin will the pivotal role of the Jewish milkman with five daughters in Aurora Community Theatre's production of "Fiddler on the Roof."

"It's one of the greatest musicals of all time," he said. "Playing Tevye, one of the greatest roles in musical theater, is a blessing."

Ironically, Durbin said he had debated whether to audition for the play at all. It was his oldest daughter Marissa, who was cast as Tevye's oldest daughter Tzeitel, who talked him into trying out.

"She actually was the one who wanted to audition," he said. "I hemmed and hawed about it. But I auditioned, and was blessed with this role."

In addition, Mark's wife Lisa is playing Shaindel, the mother of Motel (played by Justin Roth), who goes on to marry Tzeitel in the show.

"This is why I love community theater," Mark said. "I get to work with my family."

Art Suskin, the director, said that the musical is based on the short stories by Sholem Aleichem.

"The musical takes a lot of liberties but much of the stories, especially with the daughters, is intact," he said. "This musical is not musical comedy in the traditional sense. It's part opera, part ballet, part drama with a lot of laughs. It's about the story. It's the story of Tevye and the story of Anatevka. This is a play for everybody. It has a strong Jewish element but everyone comes from somewhere else.

"I will endeavor to create an Anatevka that encompasses the entire theater. In effect, the audience will feel like villagers, living in the world of the play, not just because of the powerful story and characters but because they are physically part of the story."

Wes Shofner, who is designing the set for "Fiddler," said the set "is certainly the biggest thing I've done."

Shofner said that a big part of the inspiration for the set comes from artist Marc Chagall, a contemporary and friend of Aleichem's.

"Chagall was a painter in Russia, and they worked together," Shofner said. "Chagall was known for his bold, surreal paintings, and did one of a fiddler on the roof, that's where the name came from. What we decided is the closer the items are to people, the more realistic it will look, but the farther away it is, the more impressionistic it will become. It is possible, although we don't know for sure, that Chagall may have painted backdrops for Aleichem's plays. He was known to do backdrops for theater."

Roth, 18, a Twinsburg resident said that working on "Fiddler" has "been an amazing experience."

"We had to learn about the Yiddish/Jewish culture," Roth said. "We had to make sure we got everything correct. I learned how similar different cultures can be, but we don't notice until you take a closer look at it."

Eve Phythyon of Twinsburg, who plays Tevye's long-suffering wife Golde, said she was "having the time of my life."

"It's the first show I was shown as a kid, so to be in it is a dream. This is a bucket list role for me. I am Jewish, so a lot of these traditions ring true for me. I taught the women how to do the Sabbath blessing."

Ticket and show information

"Fiddler on the Roof" runs April 25 through May 17, with Friday and Saturday shows starting at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees on May 4 and 11 at 3 p.m. An additional Thursday show was added May 15 at 8 p.m.

Tickets at $16 for all adults, $11 for age 18 and under are available online, anytime, including seat selection at auroracommunitytheatre.com or by calling 330-562-1818. Group discounts can be arranged by calling the box office. Opening night tickets include a complimentary after-show gala and the opportunity to meet cast and crew.

Aurora Community Theatre is at 115 E. Pioneer Trail, near the intersection of routes 43 and 306, at the gazebo, in the center of Aurora.

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9438

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