Defiance Community Players stages ‘Fiddler on the Roof’
IF YOU GO...
Who: Defiance Community Players
What: ‘Fiddler on the Roof’
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 13, 14, 20 and 21; 2 p.m. Nov. 15 and 22
Where: Glenwood Springs High School’s Jeannie Miller Auditorium
How much: $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students 18 or younger. Tickets are available at the Glenwood Springs Chamber, Sopris Lighting and at the door one hour before performances.
By the time Defiance Community Players’ production of “Fiddler on the Roof” hits the stage for audiences, the cast and crew will make the performance look easy. If the job is done right, nobody in the audience will be thinking about the months of work that went into the musical.
But Defiance did put in months of work to bring “Fiddler” back after more than 20 years since its last performance of the Broadway favorite. Producers, directors, choreographers, technicians, stage hands, actors, musicians, set designers, builders and more all played a part in making the musical happen. And it didn’t happen overnight.
Step 1: The idea
As with most things, this performance of “Fiddler on the Roof” started as an idea. Co-producer Chip Winn Wells and director Wendy Moore were having a conversation earlier this year about how Moore’s husband, Bob Moore, wanted to reprise the role of Tevye, the father in “Fiddler.” Wendy Moore later said “Fiddler” was the only Defiance show she would consider directing this year.
At the same time, co-producer Jacquie Meitler said, the Defiance board was thinking of shows to do.
“We needed to bring something back that we really love and kind of commemorate it again,” Meitler said. “We’ve been doing some newer material, so we thought, we want to do something again that has families in it, and then meet our mission statement, which is quality experience for cast, crew and community.”
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect to reprise “Fiddler on the Roof,” which Defiance produced more than 20 years ago.
Wells said her job as a producer is basically to organize all the elements for a great show, and then let those elements do their job.
“In a nutshell, it’s finding the right people to do the work and getting out of their way,” she said. “That being said, I think I’ve been totally successful.”
STEP 2: THE ACTORS
After the show had been set, auditions were scheduled for early September. Although in this case Bob Moore did not audition for his role as Tevye, he said his usual routine before auditions is heavy on research.
“Really the first thing you do is read the script and go, ‘Oh, I’d like to do that role,’” Bob Moore said. “From that point, I personally familiarize myself with the script, and I familiarize myself with the period it’s based on.”
After being cast, the actors came together for read-throughs of the script before any blocking. Then, they moved to Glenwood Springs Middle School for blocking and dance rehearsals.
Generally, Wells said, all the rehearsals would be done in the Glenwood Springs High School Jeannie Miller Auditorium, but it was booked many of the nights Defiance would have needed it, so the cast and crew used the middle school for the first part of its rehearsals.
Rehearsal took place at least Monday through Thursday, sometimes on weekends. Director Wendy Moore said working with a cast of 50 on a musical is much different than working with a smaller cast on a play.
“You have to do all things simultaneously,” she said. “So you have to read it and sing it and do the dance so everything is at the same level all the way through.”
The actors certainly do not comprise the only part that makes this production work. Another big aspect of “Fiddler” is the technical side.
STEP 3: THE SET
According to co-producer Chip Winn Wells, this production marks the first time an outside set designer has been utilized in Defiance Community Players history.
Jeff Jesmer, who builds for a living in Denver and acts on the side, knew Wendy Moore from working with her on “Unmarried in America,” a play written by local K.D. Carlson which ran in Denver.
“I got involved in [‘Fiddler’] because Wendy said, ‘Hey, let’s work together again,’” Jesmer said.
He drew up the set design even before auditions were held after the crew sent him dimensions of the stage. He said this is the first time he’s designed a set from afar that someone else has built.
“That was a little scary to me,” he said with a laugh.
He was worried about a few things; first, he was concerned that too many people would be trying to contact him with questions, and information would be muddled. Second, he knows firsthand how much information a builder needs, and he was worried if some kind of emergency came up it would be hard to solve problems without him physically there.
But members of the cast met every weekend for three weeks, sometimes for full eight-hour work days, to get the set constructed. There was one person designated as the liaison between the set builders and Jesmer, so information was passed back and forth easily.
That liaison was Bob Stowe, a.k.a. Bob the Builder, who works for Neuman Construction.
“Bob Stowe is one of those theater angels who was the head of the building process, and he was a great communicator between the set designer and the people who were building the set,” Wells said. “We wouldn’t have had a set without him.”
Jesmer came for a couple of days this week to help assemble and install the set in the theater. Next week, a sound and lighting technician will be present to set those elements. Then, the show will open.
At the end of the day, what makes a show possible is a willingness from everyone on the team to make it work.
Mike Wells, who plays Nacham the beggar and helped build the set, said this is the first production he’s ever performed in, and the process has been fascinating.
“It’s an interesting process to see how each individual has to do their own bit, and then there’s the team aspect of it where everybody has to work together,” he said. “It’s been interesting to see how, under a skilled director, all these pieces start to come together.
“It’s like when you’re cleaning your house,” he continued. “There’s a point where it looks worse than when you started, and then all of a sudden it’s magic. It just falls together.”
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