Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tradition and Tolerance

You know how something can be such a part of the collective cultural conscience that you feel familiar with it although you've never actually experienced it? You've heard the songs all your life, you know snippets of the plot, but you've never seen actually seen it? That's how it was with me and Fiddler on the Roof. Who hasn't heard "Sunrise, Sunset" or "Eeef I were a rich man . . . "?

Well, Tuesday night we went to the Orpheum in Memphis and saw Topol in the role of Tevye, and he and the whole cast were wonderful. His voice. I just can't describe the richness of it and the character in it.

But I left the show thinking mostly about Tradition. Several times in the play, Tevye, who's been raised in a world strongly tied to tradition, is faced with the choice of following blind tradition or promoting the happiness of someone he loves. He does his "on one hand . . . on the other hand" soliloquies, and each time decides that if there is no logical or biblical basis for the tradition, he will choose the person's happiness. But the last time in the play he is forced to make this choice, he must choose between his faith and his family. After much struggle, he chooses his faith. Yet it is not with haughtiness or superiority, but with so much pain that you can't be a witness to it and not hurt with him. And even then, he cannot refrain from pronouncing a blessing on this daughter as they part.

I couldn't help but think how much better off we'd all be if we had the spirit of Tevye.

1 comment:

lisa b said...

Fiddler is one of my absolute favorite musicals for the very same reason. I've always loved the richness of the plot, but oh my! When I watched it through the eyes of a parent and came to the scene when he walked away from his daughter, I wanted to weep! It's heartbreaking and yet I understand.

Such a beautiful story. I'm glad you were able to see it in person.