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Spertus Institute celebrates Fiddler at 50
Spertus Institute celebrates Fiddler at 50
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — January 29, 2014
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FIDDLER TURNS 50!
Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership
marks the 50th anniversary of Fiddler on the Roof
with special programs and screenings, April 6 and 7, 2014
(CHICAGO) The musical Fiddler on the Roof debuted at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway in 1964. In the fifty years since, it has become an undisputed cultural icon. Its songs have been performed at sacred ceremonies and incorporated into hip-hop hits. It has been lauded as a finely wrought theatrical work, winning nine Tony Awards, spawning four Broadway revivals, and becoming the first musical production in history to surpass 3,000 performances. Along with the film version that followed, the influence of Fiddler on the Roof has been global and cross-cultural, ranging from rural U.S. high schools to the Toyko stage and from scholarly studies to The Simpsons.
This April, in celebration of Fiddler on the Roof’s 50th anniversary, Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership will present a trio of special programs, including a free big-screen presentation of the MGM film classic.
Setting the stage, on Sunday, April 6 at 2 pm, journalist, playwright, and critic Alisa Solomon will discuss her acclaimed new book, Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof.
In a program titled Fiddler’s Fortunes: The Mighty Afterlife of a Broadway Musical, Dr. Solomon, a professor of Journalism at Columbia University and longtime drama critic for the Village Voice, will reveal where the astonishing power of Fiddler comes from and why this beloved musical, based on an 1894 story collection by Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem, is still relevant today. Tickets are $18 for members of the public, $10 for Spertus members, and $8 for students. Wonder of Wonders will be available for purchase and Dr. Solomon will be signing books following the program. On a local note, Dr. Solomon was born in Chicago and raised in Highland Park, where she worked on a production of Fiddler on the Roof at her local JCC.
Later that afternoon, on Sunday, April 6 at 5:30 pm, the lavishly produced, critically acclaimed MGM film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof will be shown on the big screen in the Feinberg Theater at Spertus Institute. As a gift to the community, Spertus presents this screening for free. Advance reservations — which are mandatory — can be made at spertus.edu beginning February 18.
On Monday, April 7 at 6:30 pm, Spertus will hold a rare screening of the 1939 Yiddish-language film Tevye, a non-musical adaptation of the Sholem Aleichem story that inspired Fiddler on the Roof. Tevye was the first non-English language movie to be named “culturally significant” and selected for preservation by the U.S. Library of Congress. A post-screening discussion will be led by arts critic Andrew Patner. Tickets are $18 for members of the public, $10 for Spertus members, and $8 for students.
Spertus Institute Director of Programming Beth Schenker says that the 50th anniversary of Fiddler provides a wide range of opportunities for exploration. “Fiddler on the Roof touches on Jewish literature, music, history, and changing concepts of Jewish identity,” she said. “But you don’t have to be Jewish to love Fiddler. Many of its themes are universal. It speaks about changing circumstances, family dynamics, and the tension between old and new.”
The theatrical version of Fiddler on the Roof was written by Joseph Stein, with music and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. Set in 1905 Tsarist Russia, it centers on Tevye, a Jewish milkman who struggles as the customs and religious traditions that have informed his life are challenged by changing times and his strong-willed daughters. The original production featured Broadway legends Zero Mostel as Tevye and Bea Arthur as Yente the Matchmaker.
Due in large part to the success of the stage play, in 1971 MGM Studios adopted Fiddler on the Roof for the screen. The movie was produced and directed by Norman Jewison and filmed largely in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Like many film adaptations, Fiddler on the Roof did not come without its share of controversy. When Jewison decided to cast Israeli actor Chaim Topol rather than stage star Zero Mostel as Tevye, he drew widespread criticism from the Broadway community. But in spite of that, in 1971 Topol won a Golden Globe for Best Actor. Early the following year, Fiddler on the Roof won three of the eight Academy Awards for which it was nominated, including Best Score and Best Cinematography. It lost the Best Picture Oscar to The French Connection.
Over the decades, Broadway productions of Fiddler on the Roof have starred an amazing range of actors. Tevye has been played by Harry Goz (who took over from Zero Mostel), Paul Lipson (who performed as Tevye more than 2,000 times), Alfred Molina (who today’s audiences might recognize from Spiderman 2 and Law and Order), and well-known actor/playwright Harvey Fierstein. Bette Midler played Tzeitel in 1968 and Rosie O'Donnell played Golde in 2005.
In conjunction with the 50th anniversary, Spertus Institute will host an array of Fiddler on the Roof online resources, including a historical timeline, essays, trivia contests, and more. These resources will be available beginning February 18 at spertus.edu/Fiddler.
Tickets to Spertus Institute programs can be purchased online at spertus.edu or by phone at 312.322.1773. Spertus is located at 610 S. Michigan Avenue. Discount parking is available for $10 with Spertus validation at the Essex Inn, two blocks south of Spertus.
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Spertus Institute offers dynamic learning opportunities, rooted in Jewish wisdom and culture and open to all. Graduate programs and workshops train future leaders and engage individuals in exploration of Jewish life. Public programs — including films, speakers, seminars, and concerts — take place at the Institute's Michigan Avenue facility, in the Chicago suburbs, and online. For more information, please visit spertus.edu.
Spertus Institute is a partner in serving the community, supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.