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Department Of Theatre And Media Arts

A Balancing Act: “Fiddler on the Roof” Explores How Tradition and Modernity Intersect in a Changing World

The cast and crew share their thoughts on how this rendition of “Fiddler on the Roof” continues to resonate in 2022

“How do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!” proclaims Tevye the milkman in the opening scene of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The musical, which celebrated its 50th anniversary of the film adaptation in 2021, has been looked to as a production that portrays one man’s struggle to cling to his traditions during a time of change.

So what does “Fiddler on the Roof” have to teach us about traditions, especially when those traditions don’t seem to be able to hold up against a changing world?

When preparing for BYU’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” director David Morgan wanted to make the musical accessible for modern audiences. This meant making a more abstract and less literal set and focusing more on how the characters develop and change throughout the story.

Peter Morgan as Tevye. Photo Credit: Joey Garrison, BYU Photo

“I think it's a very personal story about not only the main character Tevye, but his whole family and this small community,” said David Morgan.

Peter Morgan, who plays Tevye in the musical, said that while he at first had a difficult time connecting with his character, he has been able to bring the character to life by focusing on Tevye’s family relationships.

“It's been really interesting to play a character that is very different from me,” Peter Morgan said. “But I think as I've been playing it and working with it, really focusing on the relationships that has and the love that he has for his daughters, and how he is doing his best to let go of who he thinks he should be.”

Throughout the story of “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye and his family confront questions about the established conventions in their faith, family and community. In the course of the story, Tevye’s three oldest daughters are married one by one, and each time they challenge the community’s accepted customs.

As each of his daughters pushes back against the conventions they grew up with in order to live a modern life, Tevye faces the dilemma of a parent: how to best support his children when their ideas may be contrary to his own beliefs and the community’s customs. Tevye’s decisions reflect this complex struggle to strike a balance between his values.

Adam Dyer, who choreographed the musical, noted that the story’s poignancy stems from the way it portrays the complexities of life and faith. “It's not one-sided,” Dyer said. “There's not good guys and bad guys. It's not tradition versus newness. There's value in both, which is why it's so heartbreaking because we can see all the perspectives. . . . Our lives are complex, and our faith is complex.”

Dyer continued, “While I love breaking tradition, I also think I would be nothing without the traditions that have gotten me to where I am.”

Sage Patchin as Hodel, Bronwyn Reed as Tzeitel and Emma Larsen as Chava. Photo credit: Joey Garrison, BYU Photo

Through Tevye’s character, audiences can see how complex it can be to balance traditions, faith, community and family. His conflicting desires to be both a good father to his daughters and a faithful member of his community are what make Tevye’s character feel real and relatable in a modern setting.

“Sometimes these traditions work really well for some people. . . . And then for others, those traditions didn't work,” said Peter Morgan. “It's a very difficult situation just like . . . but I think the biggest thing is love.”

Nikole York, who plays Tevye’s wife Golde in the production, added that while the musical is about a Jewish family, they (the cast and crew) do not mean to overpower Jewish voices.

“That is not our story to tell,” York said. “However, what we can bring to this story is . . . how generations respond to cultural shifts, and what is a good way and a better way and a best way to respond to .”

To get tickets for this performance, visit arts.byu.edu. Following the recent rise in local and national COVID-19 cases, BYU will be requiring attendees of indoor public events on campus (athletics, performing arts, conferences and symposiums) to present proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to gain access to the event venue.

All patrons are required to wear a mask while indoors at campus performance venues, regardless of vaccination status. For details about the updated COVID-19 policy, visit coronavirus.byu.edu.

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