Sian Davila, the Assistant
Director on Fiddler on the
Roof will be taking you
through the rehearsal process from week one up until press night on 18 July. Providing weekly sneak peeks into the rehearsal room
and insight into the making of the show in conversations with the outstanding
Rehearsal Room Diary - Week 5
It’s week 5 and Fiddler on the Roof is completing its rehearsals in sunny Chichester. At the start of the week we were given a warm welcome by everybody at the theatre and we were joined by the last two members of our company – the two younger daughters who complete the central family.
I ask Alistair David, our Choreographer, how he came to be interested in being part of the creative team for Fiddler on the Roof and what the show means to him. Alistair tells me that he had worked with Daniel Evans many times before and also with David White (Musical Supervisor and Co-Orchestrator) on Show Boat. He had not seen the show or the film before, so this musical was an interesting venture for him. Whilst the show was unfamiliar, he knows it is deeply loved and revered as a masterpiece and is a beloved piece of writing for the Jewish community.
Alistair feels that Fiddler on the Roof is relevant to the political and social issues in the world, to all displaced people today and those who are oppressed or marginalised by society, and this is what attracted him to the show.
We discuss the character of the Fiddler. Alistair tells me he represents tradition itself; there is a need for tradition to hold the communities together and this is portrayed in a wonderful relationship between the Fiddler and the central character, Tevye.
It’s been really exciting to watch the actors dancing and I can’t wait for you to see Alistair’s choreography. I’m really interested in the relationship between Jewish communities and dance. Since learning from our Jewish expert, Maureen Kendler, that the Jewish wedding is the height of celebration in the Jewish community, Alistair tells me that if the wedding is that important, the dancing must be important too. When Alistair began listening to the score, he found that research was vital to informing his choreography and to ensuring that the show is detailed and authentic; for instance men and women should not dance together.
Lastly, Alistair hopes that audiences will not only be greatly entertained but will also empathise with the story and understand the plight, joys and sorrows of Jewish communities, and all wider communities who are forced to leave their homes.
Next week we head into technical rehearsals where we’ll see our company on stage. I’ll be talking with Lez Brotherston, our Designer, about his set and costumes for Fiddler on the Roof.
Rehearsal Room Diary - Week 3
It’s Week 3
and we are making our way through Act 2, revisiting Act 1 and getting to work
on scene transitions. Members of our company tell me they feel a nervous excitement
- a great combination: active and determined.
we’re in conversation with our Musical Supervisor and Orchestrator David
White. David highlights Fiddler on the Roof’s importance in
reflecting the political landscape that we live in; migration is the central
concept of the production. Fiddler on
the Roof is a Jewish story and also a universal story that
belongs to all of us.
never seen Fiddler on the Roof
on stage, which to him is an advantage. He tells me that final
orchestrations have been done for all the major numbers and next week we will start
to find the physical shape of the transitions where elements of the score may
change. It will be a big coordinating process but also a very creative time in
working out how to move from one scene to another.
excitement is that Carolyn Downing, our Sound Designer, will also be
joining us in rehearsals and together they will understand where moments are under
laid with purely musical score or purely sound effects or a combination of
both. David highlights the potential in combining, for instance, a solo
clarinet and the sound of thunder and then live music from the band - it makes
for an interesting immersive aural experience.
about the arc of the score and the range of emotions throughout the musical.
David tells me that what strikes him as interesting is the significance of
music to the Jewish people. Despite the suffering in the story and the
beautiful sacredness of Sabbath Prayer and Sunrise, Sunset, the music is, for the most part,
uplifting. The celebrations in the score are all incredibly buoyant. The point
of the music is to pick you up and to elevate you. The fascination, David
highlights, is that a lot of the uplifting music is in the minor key - which is
indicative of the joys in the sorrow and the sorrows in the joy.
that our audience will come to experience something organic where music,
dancing and singing come together. This comes from a way of working where we
don’t separate the dances and songs but rehearse them in the room together.
It’s important that every department in the creative team is working together
towards the bigger picture which makes Fiddler
on the Roof a true ensemble piece about a community of people
who live, suffer and love together.
Next week I’ll be taking you with us into Week 4 and talking to
choreographer Alistair David who will be sharing his thoughts on the
language of movement, the significance of dance in Jewish culture and his
choreography for Fiddler on the Roof.
Rehearsal Room Diary - Week 2
On the first day of our second week I ask members of our company how they’re feeling about week two and there’s an air of determination as they tell me they’re feeling ready to get on their feet and work through the scenes.
This week is about crafting. We’ve laid our foundations and now we’re building. We’ve made our way through several scenes, numbers and dances in Act 1 and begun Act 2, shaping the production as the story unfolds. We’ve heard the full company performing some of the classic numbers, filling the space with beautiful harmonies and lingering lilts. We’ve seen our Company energising the space with Alistair David's choreography and Lez Brotherston’s story board designs are coming to life as we rehearse with set.
This week I speak with Artistic Director and Director of Fiddler on the Roof, Daniel Evans; I’m really interested to know when Daniel knew he wanted to direct this particular show and why. He tells me it was a few years ago that he first read the script and heard its score. He notes that the show has a political pertinence - it’s about people who are dominated by a neighbouring culture who are eventually forced to leave. Now, Daniel says, is a good time to share this musical and sees in its story a similar struggle in the refugee crisis that affects so many today.
The story takes place in a small town, and is about ordinary people. Daniel is also interested in the domesticity of the relationships between parents and children and the next generation asserting their own values in order for progress to happen. The world of the musical has different nuances - both political and personal and they often intersect. There are echoes and resonances with us as individuals and our instinctual desires to belong, to live in peace, to have a place to call home.
I ask Daniel to share his thoughts with me about our creative team. The team is a mixture of artists he has worked with for many years, a few times and some he is working with for the first time. He has previously worked with David White, Tom Brady and Alistair David. Daniel is also excited about working with Sound Designer Carolyn Downing (Laurence Olivier Award Winner for Best Sound Design in 2014) for the first time, whose work he admires. Balance, he highlights, is key. It’s good to have a mixture of old and new voices in the room to allow new conversations and collaboration.
Daniel tells me that Anatevka, where Fiddler on the Roof is set, is a microcosm of all societies with traditions and external pressures where the personal and the political is so intertwined - whether that is to marry or speak in a certain way. There is great humour and great beauty in it. It’s also a show for those who are looking for entertainment, with excellent dancing and excellent singing. Fiddler on the Roof started on Broadway and was part of that golden age when so many great musicals were written. This is a show that can be enjoyed and experienced on many different levels.
As part of our rehearsal process, research has been a key part of our journey in understanding and accurately portraying Jewish traditions, cultures and history. I have researched the political and social tensions between the Jewish communities and Russian nationals in the early 20th Century that led to social and political unrest. Traditions and rituals are central to Fiddler on the Roof. Daniel mentions the ‘Yichud’ - a part of a wedding ceremony where a newly married couple is whisked away to a private room for their first intimate moments alone together. He highlights the beauty of family and community and how important rituals are - almost like glue which brings people together.
Lastly, I ask Daniel how Fiddler on the Roof fits in to the 2017 Festival season at Chichester Festival Theatre. Forty Years On was about the change of regime in a Public School. Caroline, Or Change was set in a time of extreme political upheaval and change in the Deep South in the 60s. Fiddler on the Roof definitely sits in this theme. All great drama is about change and Chichester itself has undergone a change of leadership in the last year. Daniel tells me that Fiddler on the Roof is also about continuing the legacy of programming a musical for the summer at Chichester Festival Theatre, which he hopes all audiences will enjoy. Having shared just two weeks with this fantastic company and creative team, I have a pretty good feeling you will.
We look forward to taking you with us into week three. Next week I’ll be talking with David White, our Musical Supervisor and Orchestrator, where he’ll be sharing his thoughts on Fiddler on the Roof and the story of its score.
Rehearsal Room Diary - Week 1
1905. A small village in Imperial Russia.
Tevye, a poor dairyman, and his wife, Golde, are blessed with five witty and
beautiful daughters. The matchmaker Yente, who believes any husband is better
than no husband, is busy making sensible marriage plans for them all.
But Tevye’s bold
daughters have their own ideas about who to marry. And as change and new ideas
roll in from the big cities, dissolving the old ways of life, the sisters are
not alone in their lust for something new.
It’s finally here. The rehearsals for Fiddler on the Roof. Day one and we’re in the room together
with a full Company meet and greet. Our multicultural company celebrates
diversity as our cast are from a range of backgrounds. There’s a great buzz in
the air, anticipation, excitement - an energy. We start day one with a design
brief and a presentation about the set with our Designer LezBrotherston
who talks us through the musical, scene by scene.
Week one is about learning. This week we hear our company sing the musical’s iconic Tradition with our Musical Supervisor and Orchestrator, David White and our Musical Director Tom Brady, and it is clear the room is filled with talent. Dance calls commence and our company moves through the space with dedication, learning routines from our Choreographer Alistair David, step by step, turn by turn. Maureen Kendler, a Teaching Fellow at the London School of Jewish Studies, speaks about Jewish life and culture in the Shtetl, a small town, in the early 20th century, where Fiddler on the Roof is set. Our Dialect Coach, Charmian Hoare and special guest Aleksandr Krapivkin begin our journey with voice and language.
The rehearsal room walls are decked with Lez’s costume drawings and set design storyboard on one wall and our research on life in the Shtetl, the political and social background in Russia up to 1905 on another. I’m thrilled to be the Assistant Director on Fiddler on the Roof, which for me, is a much loved classic. The journey ahead is exciting as our company breathe life into the script and score.
In conversation with Daniel Evans, the Director, about the show, he is excited by its striking duality. He tells me that, for him, Fiddler on the Roof is both specific and universal. He highlights that the community at the heart of the production are ordinary people with specific tradition and location and at the same time, recognisable and incredibly universal, making them also extraordinary.
Week one and I can already see how this will be a show for everyone. If you’re aged 16-25 sign up to Prologue for free today and you can book tickets for just £5 for all Festival productions, including Fiddler on the Roof. You can also follow us @cftprologue.
Keep up to date with this blog to join us in our rehearsal journey. I look forward to sharing more with you as we begin week two. Follow Chichester Festival Theatre on Twitter where links to the blog will be published. #FiddlerOnTheRoof