Fiddler on the Roof

This weekend, St Joseph's Stage Prophets Theatre Company in partnership with the Beth Israel Synagogue are proud to present Fiddler on the Roof at the Spatz Theatre in Halifax. Coming off a run of sold out shows in the Annapolis Valley, this talented cast will take you back in time to experience an array of emotions as tradition meets love, all within the backdrop of the social unrest in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. Recently we spoke with actor Justin Brown who plays the lead role of Tevye.

When and why did you first become interested in theatre?
I first became interested in theater in high school but really didn’t follow up on that interest until university. However, I have been involved with singing groups since I was in grade 7. Even before that we had a good arts program in the elementary school growing up in southern Oregon in the U.S. Through junior high and high-school I was involved in all kinds of ensembles. From jazz choir, barbershop quartet, two large a cappella choirs and competitive state choral competitions. It was in university though, that I fell in love with acting. My experience at Acadia gave me exposure to many different roles that really whet my palate for what I’m doing now.

Are they the same reasons that you continue to be involved today?
I would say the biggest reason I’m involved to this day is for love of community theater. It is a great place to develop your skill, challenge your talent, and help encourage those who are just trying it for the first time.

What are the challenges of the vocation?
This is not a vocation for me. I do this 100% volunteer.

What are the rewards?
I think the rewards are rooted in self achievement. For example, in playing a role like Tevye, it’s like climbing a mountain and coming down again. It’s this feeling of accomplishment that is very different from a physical achievement. It’s mental, musical commitment, and a bit physical as well. There’s a certain pressure that comes in being a lead role where so many other cast members are relying on you to do your job. I love that kind of pressure. And there is a little bit of “once you get a taste of the stage and the exhilaration that comes with that kind of pressure, you love it!”

How and why did you get involved with Fiddler on the Roof?
I love mountainous roles. This is a character that is huge in personality, complicated in emotion, and mountainous in song. Just before I took the role of Tevye, I played Sweeney Todd. So, within the same calendar year I took on both roles. I love the complicated task of trying to understand and capture the humanity of characters as they go through life altering events. It is something I think we all need to do more often. In addition, my daughter is involved in the production! That made it possible for me to be involved.

What do you like best about the role?
I like the struggle of tradition. That is, the character has difficulty with the progressiveness of his children. Something I think we all have experienced or will experience. That is, our kids help lead us as parents. They give us a little fuller understanding of humanity, electronics, relationships, sexual orientation, all these things that, with a younger perspective, can influence our tradition.  Why we do things is often a question that is never asked. We have our own beliefs based on the tradition from which we are rooted, typically our family of origin. Tevye wrestles with the changes in his life and comes to an understanding that he “just cannot bend that far” when he learns that his daughter has married outside the faith. But later he reaches back out in a way that tells us that the evolution of tradition is present, no matter how small.

From your perspective, why is the production still important and relevant today?
Humanity. This is one of the only musicals that ends in tragedy. I mean in a historical fiction kind of way. The end of the first act is a pogrom and the end of the show is exile.  Truly profound to act a role that many of the attending patrons can connect with either personally or through a close friend or family member.

What can audiences expect to experience during the Spatz Theatre performances?
One thing I will say as far as the performance goes - Stage Prophets does an impeccable job of overall performance value. What I mean, is the attention to details are second to none. For example, all the costumes are handmade specific for the characters with the intention that they are 100% accurate. Rabbi Yakov Kerzner of the Beth Israel Synagogue was blown away with the period representation of the set as well as the accuracy of the prayer shawls and attire.

What are your thoughts on the current state of theatre in Atlantic Canada?
I think the arts in general are well rooted in Atlantic Canada. I think the marketing and cooperative nature of the different groups could be improved a bit, but when you go looking for the arts…you discover groups and venues that you were not aware of. I mean stage prophets has been going for 17 years.

What's next on your creative & theatrical agenda?
It depends on my children. Ultimately, I would like to get more involved in the theatre scene in Halifax. We will have to see what opportunities present themselves.

Fiddler on the Roof
Saturday, November 2 @ 7.30pm
Sunday, November 3 @ 1.30pm & 7pm
Spatz Theatre, Halifax

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