I was at the dress rehearsal of Fiddler on the Roof at school today, performed by a bunch of very talented middle schoolers and directed by our new theater teacher. The students’ voices in song, their choreography, and acting were convincing and effective. In fact, I was surprised to find myself quite teary-eyed. Well, maybe not so very surprised.
The first time I saw this musical was a long time ago, when I was in 8th or 9th grade. My whole extended family went to Detroit and we sat in a balcony in a very large theater. I remember how exciting it was to even be there in the first place, let alone seeing live theater. I remember sitting next to my father and being shocked because somewhere in the midst of the show, I saw my father cry. It was the first time (and the last time) I had ever seen him cry. I asked him, in the quietest whisper I could muster, why he was crying and he said it was because this was the story of his parents. I remember turning back toward the stage with a visceral flash of something that was very big, that was a part of me and my family, that was richly layered, dramatic and painfully poignant. The music of this play has become iconic. I can no longer hear these tunes without all the backstory and personal memory reverberating in my brain and heart.
At the end of the show, I found the students I knew and gave them each a big hug, enthusiastically congratulating them on their performance. “I saw you crying, Ms. Y,” Golde said. I nodded and managed a smile.