'Fiddler' exemplifies import of arts

Saturday June 30, 2012

The Lovely Roselle and I saw Barrington Stage's "Fiddler on the Roof" last Saturday and it blew us away. We still had tears in our eyes 15 minutes after the play. Both sets of my grandparents came to America seeking a better life and feeling the threat of coming pogroms. After the first act, when it was clear what the villagers faced, I turned to Roselle and whispered to her, "And that's why we're in America." In the end, this play is a vehicle for the main character, Tevye. Brad Oscar who played the part was just superb. His nuances, his movements, his singing were phenomenal. As he faced the heavens and implored God for guidance in a Talmudic "On the one hand, on the other hand" manner, his questions just struck me as so real. The music is nothing but inspiring.

Barrington Stage under Julie Boyd's masterful direction and the Berkshire Theatre Group (Colonial Theatre) under Kate Maguire are two of the reasons people come to the Berkshires and to Pittsfield. There are, of course, a few people who don't understand the contribution that has been made, not only from an artistic perspective, but from an economic one. Everyone who comes to the Colonial or Barrington Stage gets introduced to the city and its many assets. Many spend money here. In the audience the night we saw "Fiddler" was the visionary and former mayor, James Ruberto, who understood just how important these institutions are and could be for the city. Yet, there are those who do not understand the extraordinary importance and mission of these venues. Some are politicians, some are critics. Enough said. All praise to those constructive souls who give us unparalleled theater in our corner of the world. All praise for the cast of "Fiddler."


On a related artistic matter is the Hill in Great Barrington where a wonderful man, Kevin Kavanah lives with his equally lovely family. Kevin, a teacher, is a gentle and very private man but he does have a passion -- his bagpipes. For years, the sounds of Kevin's bagpipes floating through the air, often on a Sunday afternoon, have added to the pleasure of living on Hollenbeck Avenue. The sounds of the train passing through Great Barrington, the birds, and the bagpipes are neighborhood staples which we love. Our neighbors are right there with us. They have already turned out for an impromptu performance. Our kids grew up with these sounds.

Of course, there is an old saying, "It only takes one." The other day out of the corner of my eye while working in my garden, I saw a police car speeding up Hollenbeck Avenue. The next morning, all of us on our local list-serve got a message from our friend, the gentle Kevin, who told us the police had come to his house and said someone had complained. I think I was the first to write back and to tell him that I was with him. Within a few hours what looked like hundreds of people of every stripe had checked in. Many points were made. Lawnmowers make much more noise. Overhead airplanes make more noise. But there was one universal message from everyone. The composite was this, "Kevin, we love you. Keep on playing."

So now the hunt is on for the perpetrator. Kevin put a note on his tree asking that the complainer come forward and that they could work it out. Kevin reminds me of Ferdinand the bull. He does not want to fight. He only wants peace. He wants to smell the flowers. I have tried to dope it out. Which person exhibits the following qualities: bully, angry, a history of not getting along with neighbors? I intend to be there next week when Kevin plays. Kevin may be Ferdinand and I love him for that. I am not. Bring it on.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.


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