After Being Gifted Rights to “Fiddler on the Roof,” Drama Club Works Hard to Recreate Nineteenth-Century Russia

“Fiddler on the Roof” cast members, under the direction of the student production  team, rehearse the opening number of the show, “Tradition,” on Jan 13, 2023.

Jessica Ackerman

“Fiddler on the Roof” cast members, under the direction of the student production team, rehearse the opening number of the show, “Tradition,” on Jan 13, 2023.

Jessica Ackerman, Arts Editor

With the unending enthusiasm of a tightly knit and outstandingly talented cast and crew, rehearsals for the RHS Drama Club’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” the high school’s spring musical, are well underway.

The rights to “Fiddler on the Roof” were gifted to the high school’s Drama Club as part of a grant through the Educational Theatre Association, the professional association for theatre education, a national nonprofit organization with approximately 135,000 student and professional members.

As stated by Helene and Edward Cole, who funded the gift, “[the company] must ensure that the production serves as an educational tool, and teachers/directors must use proper care and research during the production process.”

Some students were wary of performing a traditional show that requires special attention to detail; however, that hesitation soon turned into an eagerness to learn everything possible about nineteenth-century Anatekva, Russia, in order to truly understand the fictional story of family, love and Jewish tradition through the eyes of a poor dairyman named Tevye and his five young daughters.

“I’m excited to learn more about the history of Jewish people in Eastern Europe and how, despite tremendous obstacles and persecution, Jewish people in the region have persevered,” said senior cast member Conner Cafero, who plays Mendel, the village rabbi’s son. “I did not have much background on the show or the historical era before starting this show, but with the numerous resources provided for character work, I have tried to teach myself more over the past few weeks.”

Along with the cast, a 16-person student production team was created to ensure that the show maintained its historical authenticity throughout the extensive rehearsal process. The team includes the following:

  • Senior Vanessa Baron, student director
  • Sophomores Harsh Magdum and Mikayla Watkins, community coordinators
  • Junior Georgia Cullin, assistant director and technical liaison
  • Senior Gavin Emdur and freshman Emma Carothers, dramaturgs
  • Junior Amaia Biggan, music director
  • Senior Jessica Ackerman, sophomore Emma Basa and Harsh Magdum, dance captains
  • Senior Haley Thompson, choreographer
  • Sophomores Carolyn Marconi and Angela Remick, stage managers
  • Senior Sophia Fliegler, lead set builder
  • Senior Autumn Carmona, property master.

Student leaders were handpicked for their expertise in each area and eagerness to contribute to the production effort. At any given rehearsal, while the dramaturgs ensure cultural integrity and conduct detailed research on the show itself and its historical context, the stage managers record curtain cues, and the dance captains fine-tune choreography details to properly pay homage to the folk-style choreographic intentions.

Assisted by a wealth of resources provided by director Jacob Burlas, which include podcasts, documentaries and articles, the students aim to create a production that, as stated by Emdur, remains “accurate and respectful.”

“Taking the time to educate and listen to each other is especially important for a historical show like this,” student director Baron said. With a multitude of resources, including a showing of the documentary “Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles” directed by Max Lewkowicz, with original choreography from the Broadway production by the world-renowned Jerome Robbins and podcasts and videos detailing the composers’ intentions as well as the intricacies of the Jewish religion, the team was confident that this could be accomplished.

On a recent day behind the scenes, the stage managers and crew leaders worked with staff members and student crew members to build sets, design lighting and make the performance space truly reminiscent of the village of Anatekva.

They collaborated with cast members as well to account for their interpretations of the characters and setting to, as stated by Fliegler, “establish and maintain a positive, productive relationship with the cast so that we can truly accurately portray this story. If we use our resources and creativity well, we can absolutely make ‘Fiddler’ an educational and fun experience for everyone involved.”

“The amazing thing about this cast is that they are ready to do the work,” Emdur commented. “They really want to learn and to be respectful with the material.”

Performances of “Fiddler on the Roof” are set for March 24 and 25. Tickets are available online through