Lamont, theater students join forces for ‘Fiddler’
The University of Denver’s annual winter musical always is a chance for students from the theater department to work side read more…
The University of Denver’s annual winter musical always is a chance for students from the theater department to work side by side with students from the Lamont School of Music, but this year there’s another collaborator in the mix. For “Fiddler on the Roof,” opening Feb. 28, director Pamyla Stiehl enlisted the talents of veteran Denver actor John Arp, who plays patriarch Tevye in the DU production.
“I’m getting to work with a professional actor every day and actually do scenes with him on stage, which is so different than having a professor in class telling you what you’re doing wrong,” says senior oboe and theater major Caitlin Conklin, who plays Tevye’s wife, Golde. “I’ve learned more working with him in seven weeks than I feel like I’ve really gotten to put into practice the past few years. It’s definitely been a crash course.”
In addition to Arp’s expertise, students are benefitting from the guidance of Stiehl, a postdoctorate fellow and instructor in the theater department who also is the first in-house musical director in several years.
“It has been so great to have somebody who is present on campus all the time, because it means that the learning and character work that I get to do isn’t just from 7 to 10 at night,” Conklin says. “I can go see her and talk to her at any point during the day, which is an incredible experience.”
First staged in 1964, “Fiddler on the Roof” centers on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his family and Jewish religious traditions even as outside influences encroach upon their lives. With music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and book by Joseph Stein, the show features classic tunes including “Tradition,” “Sunrise, Sunset,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “To Life.” After the contemporary musicals DU has staged the past few years (“Urinetown,” “Side Show”), Stiehl sees “Fiddler” as a satisfying return to the classics.
“I think it’s one of the most beautiful musicals ever written, as far as book and score and movement,” says Stiehl, who teaches a seminar on the golden age of musical theater. “I thought, ‘If we’re going to do the golden age, let’s do the golden age.’ [The students] got to wrap their arms around this iconic musical. When they start ‘Tradition,’ they’re like, ‘This is so fun! This is epic!’”
Conklin, who also is pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum instruction from the Morgridge College of Education, echoes Stiehl’s sentiments.
“This is a musical that is filled with real people all the way across,” she says. “It’s not characters or stereotypes in this show. I think that’s something that’s really going to keep this work alive for a significant amount of time.”
“Fiddler on the Roof” plays at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28–March 2 and March 8–9, and at 2 p.m. March 10, in the Byron Flexible Theater at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $15–$22; visit newmantix.com for more information.