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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Whew! I Need a Break--Tradition! (or How Fiddler on the Roof Got Made)

So, after plowing through Anna Bikont's brilliant, grim, The Crime and Silence, I took a break and read a confection called, Tradition! a book about the making of Fiddler on the Roof.

It's about as heavy as the powdered sugar (though the powder-sugar snow falling outside my window will be very heavy to shovel.) It's still fascinating, because of the sections about Jerome Robbins repeatedly pushing the creators (Joseph Stein, Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock) to identify "What's it about," forcing them to move from the simple, from a story about a family in a village--to the universal--a story about a parent and a community struggling with repeated blows to the ancient and treasured traditions that they believe have kept them safe for centuries.

At the end of the book, as it becomes more and more self-congratulatory, the discussion turns to how very beloved and universal the play has become, selling out for years in places as varied as Japan and Poland.

Yes, Poland. And it occurred to me, juxtaposing the two books, remembering the passionate resistance to believing that Jews had any right to be in Poland and the refusal to acknowledge wrong-doing in the passionate pogroms that exploded in the region, that a production of Fiddler might be just what is called for, performing someplace local, or better yet, being put on by the local school. Of course, somebody would have to produce it, through death threats et all, but perhaps if the people of the Jedwabne-Lomsa region could relate to the people of the village of Anatevka, they could come face to face with their own demons of hatred. Art can often reach where logic cannot.

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