Co-directors Rachel Stevens and Marcus Stevens on “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Both Rachel and Marcus developed their love of musical theater at Upper Darby Summer Stage. Next spring Rachel will obtain a Masters in Fine Arts at The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York City, home of the acclaimed “Inside the Actors Studio” TV series. Marcus just wrapped up a ten month run in “Forbidden Broadway, Alive and Kicking” at the 47th Street Theater in New York City. Critics raved about his character spoofs of Mandy Patinkin, Matthew Broderick, Ricky Martin, and Harvey Fierstein.
The co-directors took some time to talk about working together, the timeliness of the production and how they are working with the cast and creative team to make the production fresh and novel.
This is the first in a series of our edited conversation.
Lauren SY: Why is a musical that takes place in 1905 in Russia relevant to us today, in this country?
Marcus Stevens: You always have to ask the question as the director, “Why now? Why are we doing this now?” There are a lot of reasons for doing it now: One, there are people all over the world in new places, that are not Jewish or African-American, but Middle Eastern or in other places where there are revolts taking place, there is unrest, there are people being scapegoated, there are people being kicked out of their homes. And two, in America…whenever the times shift, for instance the supreme court vote the other day, when the feeling of the country shifts, and people who are not used to those changes are hit with them…it affects families and people have to adapt. Their belief systems are shaken.
And that’s what Tevye does the whole show. He has a core belief system that was given to him by his parents, and his children are progressive. He has to adapt. When Harry (Executive Director, Harry Dietzler) came to the rehearsal the other night and he said, “When I first saw this show I associated with the sons because that’s what I was, and now I’m a father. And so I watch this, and now I’m seeing it through the father’s eyes.”
Rachel Stevens: One of the things we’ve been talking to our cast about, a LOT, is the universality of the show. Yes, it’s culturally specific, but at the same time it’s about everybody, and specifically about Summer Stage. And that’s why Marcus and I have been wanting to do this show specifically here forever. Because it is about people who have traditions like ours in this theater, we can name a million of them. Singing “To Fill The World with Love,” the Summer Stage song, having pizza lunches on Thursdays and all those things. Those are things we’re so proud of that when we talk about them, they fill us with pride. And these people are the same. That’s why doing it here is so gratifying.
And “Why now?” It’s a great show for young people to find something to believe in.
MS: And they’re connecting to it.
RS: They’re REALLY connecting to it!
MS: They connected to it right away. We were worried because we thought they were going to say, “Oh, it’s old. I don’t understand the Judaism.”
RS: But they do!
MS: They get the universal part of it which the audience is going to walk away with.