Thursday, July 16, 2009

Behind the Scenes in Anatevka

I am writing this post backstage during Fiddler practice. I found backstage to be an important place in my life, as I first read SOTB backstage when I was in the play “Stage Door,” and dreamed up and started writing its screenplay backstage on “Beauty and the Beast.”

So what is happening backstage this year? The usual. People texting, playing instruments, changing costumes. I've varied between talking to people, writing on my book, and just sitting around waiting. It's hard to do much of anything productive during the first act because I'm on stage so much.

The Mamas: Who must know the way to make a proper home, a quiet home, a kosher home. Who must raise a family and run that home, so Papa's free to read the Holy Book!

First there is “Tradition” where I begin by counting inventory at the bookshop, carry my “baby” out to sing the mamas' part, and glare at Yente when she tells my “husband” Avram that our son isn't really much to look at.

Yente: Avram, I have a perfect match for your son. A wonderful girl.
Avram: Who is it?
Yente: Ruchel, the shoemaker's daughter.
Avram: Ruchel? But she can hardly see. She's almost blind.
Yente: Tell the truth, Avram, is your son so much to look at? The way she sees and the way he looks, it's a perfect match!

After which I go back to my house, dash backstage and change my costume so that I can come out as a daughter in “Matchmaker.” Yes, I'm a little old for that, but I can act younger and it's a fun song to be able to sing with my sister. In the script only the three daughters sing it, but in our production we repeat a few verses so that all the girls can join in, sort of a balance for the male-dominated “L'Chiam.”

Girls: Matchmaker, Matchmaker plan me no plans, I'm in no rush, maybe I've learned...playing with matches a girl can get burned!

(There's a lesson for Emma Woodhouse!)

Then I reverse back to my mama costume and join my family for “Sabbath Prayer” which is a song I've come to appreciate much more since beginning the play. We get to do parts and something similar to rounds, which is much more fun than just “singing.” It's really a very beautiful song.

All: May you come to be, in Yisroel a shining name...

Next up is “The Dream” which is totally freaky in the movie, and so much fun to sing in the play. One of my best friends is playing Fruma Sarah, which is a blast. I'm delighted to be in the chorus in this part, since we get to hit some fun notes and do some fun rhythm things. We are toning down the freakiness to make it more suitable for a youthful audience.

Golde: Grandma Tzeitel? How did she look?
Tevye: For a woman who has been dead thirty years, she looked very good.

Then over to the other side of the yard to get in procession for the wedding! “Sunrise, Sunset” is another great song, and then everyone breaks out into dancing. I don't actually dance during this part, because I'm holding my “baby.” But I do enjoy watching the bottle dance, which my “husband”, “son” and “brother-in-law” all take part in. I'm really quite proud of my guy friends for what they've managed to do with this complicated dance!

Perchik: They look so natural together-
Hodel: -just like two newlyweds should be.
Both: Is there a canopy in store for me?

Then we all cluster around the stage and are shocked by Lazar fighting with Tevye...

Golde: I had a sign! My own grandmother came to use from the grave...
Yente: What sign? What grandmother? My grandfather came to me from the grave and told me that my grandmother was a big liar!
Lazar: We drank on it!
Innkeeper: Quiet! I'm singing!

...and Perchik dancing with Hodel! Imagine! Hodel dancing with a man! Indeed! But then Avram demands that I join him dancing as well, so I quickly find someone to hold my baby and hurry out to the dance floor. It's fun! Until the Russians arrive! Then run run run back to our house and scream while they attack us. And then collapse backstage laughing because no one is really taking the attack seriously yet.


Act II is pretty low key for the chorus. My first appearance is during the song “The Rumor.” Which if you haven't heard, is simply hilarious. I get plenty of good reaction time in that, and plenty of rushing around with news! Oh, and here I get a name. Motel's mother calls me “Mirela”. :)

Mendel: Remember Perchik, with all his strange ideas? Remember Tzeitel's wedding?
Mendel and I: Where Tevye danced with Golde?
Avram: (frowns at me) shhh!
Mendel: Well I just heard that Tevye's been arrested and Golde's gone to Kiev!
Group: No!
Mendel: God forbid.
Group:She didn't!
Mendel: She did.

Also, one of the best lines of the play comes here. “And thats what comes from men and women, dancing!” I quickly pull my son away from the girls hanging around him!

More waiting...waiting...waiting...and then at last we go to our homes and start packing up, preparing to leave. We sing “Anatevka” and then my family waits...waits...waits some more as we are almost the last family to leave town!

All: I belong in Anatevka. Tumble down, workaday Anatevka. Dear little village little town of mine.

So that's what happens backstage. Right now I'm typing this while I keep an eye on Grandma Tzeitel, waiting for the cue for “The Dream.” Should be interesting, as our Fruma Sarah is out of town so someone else will be filling in her lines for us.


Victoria Rose said...

how fun!!! good luck, Elena!!

Hannah Liz said...

WOW!!! Sounds hilarious and SO much fun!! Good luck Elena! :D :)

Mary Bess said...

Ok, I've been having a marvelous week feeling like I'm getting to know you, Elena, but this post takes the cake! Why? Well because on top of all the other things you've written and done that I've found myself nodding to, (and quietly thanking God that someone else, SOMEWHERE out there shares these thoughts!) I now discover that you played the SAME ROLE in Fiddler that I did, just one year kidding. I was Mirala in July 2008. (BTW, I followed it in 2009 by designing and sewing/altering--though without your amazing team of help--the costumes for Oklahoma, while I dreamed of doing Beauty and the Beast...yep, it's a bit freaky)

Anyway, thank you for sharing your life and thoughts this way.

Elizabeth Amy Hajek said...

Wow! Mary Bess that is just crazy! And cool! I've been enjoying seeing your comments pop up and am thrilled that you are enjoying my blog enough to read it all the way from the beginning! That is a LOT of posts! Thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy what you see!