It’s easy to forget, when faced with cities awash in Christmas lights, that not all Americans celebrate the Christmas holiday. Recent studies by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life indicate that nearly one-fourth of all Americans embrace traditions other than Christianity.
So I was delighted to learn that Arizona Jewish Theatre Company’s Curtain Call Youtheatre is performing “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.” this weekend — giving Valley audiences a break from nearly non-stop Christmas fare while offering a glimpse into traditions of Jewish faith and culture.
Cast members were asked to write about family traditions rather than submitting traditional bios for the program, so folks who atttend the show can enjoy both the timeless tale of a family facing changing times and the reflections of Valley youth on their own traditions within contemporary society.
Janet Arnold, founder and producing director for Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, shared a few “tradition” tidbits from the program, many focused on family holiday celebrations. Levi Gettleman (Rabbi, age 11) shared a Passover seder tradition in which his dad asks the kids questions, then rewards correct answers with two dollar bills.
Julia Caplan (Mendel/Bottle Dancer, age 9) shared her family’s tradition of spending one night of Hanukkah buying presents for children who don’t have other Hanukkah gifts to open. Mykael Cooper (Constable, age 11) shared his family’s tradition of lighting a Holocaust candle every Friday to honor his grandfather, who is a Holocaust survivor.
Jordyn Drake (Avram, age 13) shared his family’s tradition of watching holiday television shows together after putting up the Christmas tree, and Karlie Gibson (Yente, age 15) shared her family’s tradition of sending the kids on a treasure hunt to find their big Christmas gifts.
Emily Ginsberg (Villager/Bottle Girl, age 12) shared her family’s tradition of having a huge Thanksgiving feast with relatives who fly in from out of state, and Eric Flayton (Lazar Wolf, age 11) shared his family’s Thanksgiving tradition of letting the kids do an “annual trashing of the playroom.”
Seems that Halloween is a favorite for Maddie Felder (Tzeitel, age 14) and her family, whose traditions include making their own costumes, designing “Tim Burton-esque” pumpkins and watching lots of Halloween movies during the week. Something tells me they’re already planning next year’s theme.
Several cast members shared traditions involving food. Emily Bachus (Villager, age 11) noted a long list of food and drink they share during the annual Super Bowl party her family hosts for about 100 people, and Mykael Cooper (Constable, age 11) revealed his family’s penchant for crab legs instead of turkey and dressing during Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.
Rachel Ginsberg (Russian/Villager, age 12) shared her family’s tradition of enjoying a meal, and plenty of conversation, together every Sunday night. Shira Hamer (Villager, age 9) shared her family’s tradition of making up new recipes, noting that cooking is a bit like stand up-comedy. “If you’re confident,” says Hamer, “you can get away with anything.”
Arizona Jewish Theatre Company presents “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.” — complete with young fiddler — tonight (Sat, Dec. 10) at 7pm and tomorrow (Sun, Dec. 11) at 1pm and 4pm. They perform at the John Paul Theatre on the campus of Phoenix College, an intimate venue that’s perfect for introducing children to the joys of live theater performance.
The “Fiddler on the Roof” story features themes we can all related to. Changing roles for youth. Shifting political influences. Mixed feelings about watching children grow. Challenges to traditions held near and dear. Whatever winter holiday you celebrate, it’s always nice to be reminded of the importance of family and the power of tradition.
Note: “All Rights Reserved,” the teen improv troupe for Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, performs prior to each “Fiddler” — and can also be seen Wed, Dec. 14 at the Arizona Jewish Historical Society (near ASA) in Phoenix. Click here for details, plus information on the company’s full season, current online auction and theater training for youth. Click here to learn more about Mark Gluckman Photography.
Coming up: Art meets pluralism, Talking with “Elmo,” Teen improv tales
Update: Janet Arnold was excited to share that more than 200 people attended opening night for “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.” and gave the show a “thunderous standing O.” Look for the “Fiddler” cast at the Arizona State Capitol Dec. 20 at 5pm, where they’ll sing “Tradition” (in full costume) and participate in “lighting the first candle on the official State Menorah for Chanukah.” 12/11/11