The Bay Area celebrates 50 years of Fiddler on the Roof

Although the story of 'Fiddler on the Roof' is based on the experience of Jews in rural Eastern Europe, its resonance goes far beyond the Jewish community. The Bay Area celebrates the musical's 50th anniversary.

Fiddler on the Roof - Harvey Fierstein
Harvey Fierstein as Tevye in the touring production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ in San Francisco.

When Fiddler on the Roof (review from San Francisco), a musical adaptation of Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye stories, made its debut on Broadway in 1964 it was an immediate hit. With songs by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick and choreography by Jerome Robbins, the play is among the most successful musicals of all time—with countless international productions in schools, community theaters, and professional stages from Korea to Finland.

To celebrate the landmark play’s fiftieth anniversary, several Bay Area institutions including the 29th Jewish Music Festival, 3200 Stories, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Jewish Community Center of the East Bay, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, The Jewish Community Library, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union, Sonoma State University, and the Taube Center for Jewish Studies at Stanford University are joining forces to sing, study, argue, record, and interpret the stories, the play, and the award-winning 1971 Hollywood film adaptation.

Events taking place as part of Fiddler at 50 include a community sing-along led by monologist Josh Kornbluth, film screenings and stage performances, a concert and conversation with Theodore Bikel, and conferences and lectures with such renowned scholars as drama critic and Jewish historian Alisa Solomon.

Most events take place January 7–14, 2014. A special crowd-sourced video project called Break/Tradition is being created by 3200 Stories, an online publication of the JCCSF, together with The Contemporary Jewish Museum. The video will feature dozens of public submissions of individuals, families, and friends singing “Tradition” and will be screened at Fiddler at 50 events across the Bay Area. See below for all event details and dates.

A 50 Year Legacy

Although the story of Fiddler on the Roof is based on the experience of Jews in rural Eastern Europe, its resonance goes far beyond the Jewish community, speaking powerfully of each culture and generation’s need to balance tradition with change, a tightrope act symbolized by the play’s title and central metaphor—a fiddler on the roof.

At the same time, some Jewish intellectuals saw the play (and the 1971 Hollywood adaptation, starring Israeli actor Chaim Topol) as a faulty interpretation of the much darker stories of Sholem Aleichem, portraying shtetl life in too sentimental or simplistic a light. Others, still unsure of the Jewish place in America, worried that the country would see Jewish life not as a modern, assimilated culture but as an exotic caricature dedicated to archaic traditions.

Fifty years later, Fiddler on the Roof is considered not just a work of genius, but a major text of post-war American Jewish life. The central conflict in the play—of balancing tradition with innovation, assimilation, and intermarriage—continues to haunt a Jewish community struggling to understand how to define Jewish identity in a land of unprecedented freedom and success.

San Francisco Theater news, reviews, photos, videosPROGRAMMING

Fiddler on the Roof screening for Free First Tuesday
Tuesday, Jan 7 | 2pm
The Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco
FREE

The Contemporary Jewish Museum kicks off the Bay Area Fiddler at 50 celebration with a screening of the 1971 film adaptation, starring Israeli actor Chaim Topol as a Jewish peasant struggling with the meaning of tradition (181 min).

Fiddler on the Roof: Community Sing-Along and Film Showing with Josh Kornbluth
Wednesday, Jan 8 | 6:30pm
California Theatre, 2113 Kittredge St., Berkeley
$15 general/$12 students and seniors

Join beloved Bay Area monologist Josh Kornbluth for this evening screening of the 1971 film adaptation and community sing-along.

Fiddler Reception and Klezmer Dance Party
Wednesday, Jan 8 | 9pm
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley
Free with movie ticket stub from the Community Sing-Along

Keep the Fiddler fun going at this reception and dance party following the Community Sing-Along. Enjoy decadent desserts inspired by the old country from Kenny Hockert’s Old World Food Truck, and enjoy a live performance by Veretski Pass, a virtuoso trio that will be fiddling up a storm.

Fiddler at Fifty: The Taube Conference on Eastern European Jewish History and Culture
Thursday, Jan 9 | 2–4pm
Graduate Theological Union Library, Dinner Board Room, 2400 Ridge Rd., Berkeley
FREE

Hear multiple perspectives on the legacy of Fiddler on the Roof with speakers including keynote Alisa Solomon, author of Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof; Ari Kelman, the Jim Joseph Chair in Education and Jewish Studies, Stanford University; Gabriella Safran, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Stanford University; Naomi Seidman, Koret Professor of Jewish Culture and Director of the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies, GTU; and Steven J. Zipperstein, Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History, Stanford University. Moderated by Sam Norich, publisher of The Jewish Daily Forward.

Theodore Bikel and Merima Ključo in Concert and Conversation
Thursday, Jan 9 | 7:30pm
Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley
$18 general/$15 students and seniors

Enjoy an evening of music and conversation with legendary Jewish American folksinger Theodore Bikel, who has performed as Tevye more than 2,000 times, together with internationally acclaimed Bosnian accordionist Merima Ključo. The evening will include a conversion with Sam Norich, publisher of the Jewish Daily Forward

Fifty Years of Fiddler: A Conference and Celebration
Stanford University

Tribute to Fiddler on the Roof and Sholem Aleichem
Sunday, Jan 12 | 7pm
Hillel at Stanford (Koret Pavilion), 565 Mayfield Ave., Stanford
FREE

Stanford’s Fifty Years of Fiddler Conference begins with this tribute to Fiddler on the Roof and Sholem Aleichem featuring a performance by Stanford’s oldest and largest theatrical organization, the Ram’s Head Theatrical Society, and a showing of the 2011 documentary Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness, a riveting portrait of the great writer directed by Joseph Dorman.

Fifty Years of Fiddler: A Symposium
Monday, Jan 13 | 2–5pm
Stanford Humanities Center, 424 Santa Teresa St., Stanford
FREE

Hear reflections on the legacy of Fiddler on the Roof with speakers including Nathaniel Deutsch, Co-director of the Center for Jewish Studies, UC Santa Cruz; Ari Kelman, the Jim Joseph Chair in Education and Jewish Studies, Stanford University; Naomi Seidman, Koret Professor of Jewish Culture and Director of the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies, GTU; and Mark Slobin, Professor of Music and American Studies, Wesleyan University.

The 2014 Jewish Community Endowment Fund Lecture: Alisa Solomon, “Fiddler’s Fortunes”
Monday, Jan 13 | 5:15pm
Stanford Humanities Center, 424 Santa Teresa St., Stanford
FREE

Alisa Solomon, a professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University, is the author of Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof and shares her perspective in this fascinating talk.

Celebrating a Half-Century of Fiddler on the Roof with Alisa Solomon
Tuesday, Jan 14 | 7pm
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California St, San Francisco
$15 general

Drama critic and Jewish historian Alisa Solomon explains how Sholem Aleichem’s story of Tevye the Milkman was reborn as blockbuster entertainment and became a cultural touchstone for people all over the world. Solomon’s captivating new book, Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof, describes the enduring story of a Broadway musical that speaks to our deepest conflicts and desires—fraying traditions, generational tension, the loss of roots—resonating with people across borders and time.

Fiddler on the Roof on Stage
Feb 6–16 | times vary
Sonoma State University, Evert B. Person Theatre, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park
$10–17 general

Sonoma State University’s Departments of Music and Theatre Arts & Dance co-present Fiddler on the Roof, the awarding-winning Broadway musical that tells the story of a Jewish family clinging to its sacred traditions in the face of a rapidly changing world. Sonoma State University celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of this beloved, joyous celebration of the power of love and the triumph of the human spirit.

Musical Direction by Lynne Morrow. Stage Direction by Adrian Elfenbaum. Featuring a sixteen-piece orchestra and a special “sing-along” performance.

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