Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fiddler: The Story of a Friendship

Top picture: full cast

Second picture: me and David, out of costume

Third picture: David as Avram

Fourth picture: From left: Sharon (mama), David (Avram) and me (mama)

Fiddler On The Roof is over. And now we can all rest.

Several people have asked when I was going to post about this production. Well, you kind of have to know the background of this show to fully understand why this production was so important. I had alluded to this in an earlier post about Fiddler, so if I repeat myself, bear with me.

More than anything to me, this production was about a friendship. A very strong, loyal friendship between two women. Sheila is the drama director at the local high school. She directed this show several years ago with her best friend Debby as the musical director. The two met in college and they shared the same birthday. They were best friends for 36 years. Both single women, they shared the bond that only single women can share.

My friend Sharon and I have been friends since birth. I remember well our single days. Friday nights at China Gate Restaurant. Saturday nights watching Fantasy Island on TV. We eventually married and had families of our own, but the single women friendship is a unique, solid bond that I will always remember.

Eventually Sheila and Debby worked together on high school musicals. Sheila was the drama director and Debby was the musical director. They agreed on pretty much everything, and they put on some wonderful productions. In 2001, they together directed Fiddler on the Roof. It was a major hit in our small community. The shows were sold out. The production featured students and staff in the cast.

Five years later, Debby was diagnosed with cancer. She was looking forward to working with Sheila again on the next production of Fiddler. They had decided to do it again together. Unfortunately, Debby lost her battle in 2008. Sheila was determined to continue with the production, and to devote it to Debby.

As she details in her introduction in the program, the tough part was finding a new music director. One man's name kept coming up - Brad - and here I'll use Sheila's words to descibe what happened next:

When I first met Brad face to face, I remember telling him that I was not going to try to turn him into another Debby. I then told him that this show was going to be a very tough one for me to get through. I broke down. I'll never forget. Brad, who was a perfect stranger up until that meeting, took my hand and said "Don't worry. I'm here for you. I'll get you through it."

And Brad kept his promise to Sheila. And Sheila kept her promise to Debby.

And those of us who participated in this production felt very fortunate to be part of this devotion between friends.

On opening night, Sheila did a formal tribute to Debby, presenting her mother and sister with a scrapbook she had prepared from email letters written by students who had worked with Debby.

As for the production itself, I have to say it was just fun (other than rehearsing til midnight the few nights before the production). My husband David played Avram the Bookseller, and Sharon and I were mamas and villagers. None of us had performed beyond high school.

It is interesting to watch how a production evolves. Every part of it starts from nothing - an empty stage turns into a realistic looking set created by Ron, a solid guy in overalls who has a full-time job and created this set after working all day. Sandy, the pretty costume lady who amazingly took our shirts and removed the collars (that was probably the least skilled thing she did but we were all very impressed!). Brad, the music director who added a spirit of fun to the musical numbers. Joel, the tech guy, who injured his leg and needed surgery one week before the production - he also had a part in the play that included dancing. We assumed he would need to be replaced, but he continued in both the acting and the tech roles - I have never seen anyone with more energy.

And the cast - the high school kids all knew each other, but many of us adults came into this as strangers. As we got more comfortable, we opened up to each other. Ileen, a grandma, loved to bake and provided us with baked goods for all 3 shows. She also entertained us cause Ileen knows everyone and everything. She probably should have been cast as Yente. And Laura always made me laugh. Two menopausal women trying to remember the basic blocking moves - an almost impossible task, but made much easier with the laughter. Even in the sad scenes, we had to be careful not to laugh. Jean, who was in the show with her talented son Cody, started out very quiet but then opened up and she is the one who decided the mamas should supply all of the snacks for the shows (we did a great job). And the last mama, Sharon, was my reason for being in the show. When Sheila called Sharon to see if she would be in the show, Sharon suggested me. Sharon and I have spent most of our 50 some years together in a friendship that involves laughter more than anything else. In our last production of the show, there is one number where Sharon and I and 2 others are to rush over to lift the bride in a chair and turn around with her in the air. Well in our rush, we smacked into each other and we couldn't move cause we had smacked into each other, and I laugh now at that image as I write this, and we laughed then, and we will hopefully spend the rest of our lives laughing together.

And for David, well, it turned out that he is a very talented actor! Sharon and I loved watching him at rehearsals. His facial expressions were priceless. We are wondering if this is the start of something new for him.

We are all so engrained in the Fiddler mentality that every time we hear any phrase at all, we tie it in to a line in Fiddler.

It felt like this weekend would never get here, but it did, and it went by so quickly. My email friend Ellen, who hears from me many times a day, told me I would go into withdrawal after the show. So far, though, I'm just enjoying the relaxation.

Three days before the final show, I was sure we had no idea what we were doing and that it would be a flop. At dress rehearsal, I had more hope. Then came the performances, and we had 3 great audiences who laughed in the right places and appeared to enjoy themselves as much as we did.

David's Cousin Deet and her boyfriend Rick drove in from Lansing to see the show. Other friends and relatives came to see the production, and I believe they were all very impressed. I am grateful to all who took the time to come see us. It meant a lot.

Just before our last show, Sheila thanked us, and told us we were a "comfortable cast" and by that she meant, there were no egos involved as you sometimes see in shows like this - we all came together to do a job, and we did it. And did it well.

But it was more than just putting on a show. It was about helping one friend complete a promise to another friend. As part of a strong, long-standing, loyal friendship that started when two college girls realized they shared the same birthday. And that seemed to mean the most. To all of us.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sundays with Suzy

Many years ago, I was required to attend Sunday school at temple. Most years I was just bored and tired, but I made some new friends along the way. However, one year of Sunday school was a nightmare. Why? Because of mean Suzy.

In my youth, I have no memories of anyone tormenting me other than that year of Sundays with Suzy. Suzy was just plain cruel. I don't remember the details of any of her remarks, other than that she was just plain mean. On the few times when Suzy was absent, I could stand Sunday school, but when she was there, I just dreaded going.

Suzy had escaped from my mind (most things these days have escaped from my mind). Well, today I attended the funeral of a friend's mother. After the graveside service, everyone was invited to my friend's house. As is the Jewish tradition, the family sat and ate a meal - a dairy tray. As an aside, I will add that David and I love dairy trays but we have noticed that the only time we ever get dairy trays is when someone dies. Anyway, David likes the lox and other smoked fish and I like the gefilte fish, creamed herring, egg salad, etc. So many treats all together on one tray.

So David and I arrived at my friend's house. I had allowed time for my friend and her family to get there and eat. We arrived, and the family was at the table eating from the tray. David and I stood around talking and then we decided to leave. We went to say goodbye to my friend and she said "come and have some food." I said no, we're not hungry." I lied because I think that those expensive dairy trays are only for the family. She kept insisting and said "I'd like to sit down and talk with you - just come and sit at the table and have something to eat." She didn't have to twist our arms. So we sat down at this long table - 2 tables pushed together, actually. I was at the end of the table. I looked at the other end of the table, and - OMG, it was Suzy! I asked my friend "who is that woman at the other end of the table?" She said "her name is Suzy _______." Holy shit, I thought. My friend asked if I knew her and I said yes, she tormented me many years ago in Sunday school. I hate her.

Well my husband took offense to that remark. "Bonnie," he asked "do you know what she's like today?" And I said "I don't care what she's like today. I hate her." He said "for all you know, she could be a perfectly nice person." I said "no way - once a mean person, always a mean person. Mean people don't become nice." And he gave me his "you are an idiot" look. My friend asked what we were talking about. I said well, David thinks people can change, and I say someone who was so mean can never be nice. And my friend said "I agree with you. I was very tall in my youth, and my mother made me go to dance classes, and one of the girls in that class was so mean to me, and occasionally I see that girl (lady) when I'm out shopping, and she doesn't remember me, but I remember her, and I always think that one day I'd like to walk up to her and say 'you know, you were really mean to me when I was young, and it really hurt my feelings, and anyway, you're ugly.'"

I don't know why that struck me as so funny, but it did.

I am just not the type to approach someone and say something like that, but I can fantasize that I will have that encounter with Suzy, and say the words my friend wanted to say to her tormentor.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Easter Dinner Food Failures

Every year we have the discussion "where are we having Easter this year?" Truth be told, I do enjoy cooking, and I spend half the year cutting out new recipes, but when it comes time to determining where we will have a dinner, I always vote for someone else's house. Why? Cause I hate cleaning. It takes much longer to clean than to cook. And it's not just that it takes time to dust, etc. - it's that we always run out of time and stuff everything into a box. And we have boxes throughout the house that were stuffed for the sole purpose of having people over to eat.

So when I mentioned to sister-in-law Mary that I hate to clean, she said "we don't care how your house looks." Ha! This, coming from the cleanest person I know. Then she started to tell me about her bad shoulder and how her physical therapist said she should not use her arm for anything other than physical therapy. And then she volunteered to host Easter dinner. "Mary," I said "how can I possibly say ok after hearing about aIl your shoulder problems?" And she said "well I'll get help." Feeling like a heel, I said oh, we'll do it at our (dirty) house.

And I decided to do something untraditional this year. Every Easter it's the same thing - David decides to cook a meat that he puts great effort into, and it is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER done when it's supposed to be done. It's either done 45 minutes early or it's raw when all the sides are ready. So I said ok, this year I'm going to make something that we put in the oven, and we take it out when it's hot, and there's no fuss.

So the day before, I made 2 lasagnas. I thought that was a lot for 9 people, but everyone I asked said oh, you better make 2. So we are now eating lasagna for lunch and dinner every day because there was a whole one left.

I know they say you should let lasagna sit when you take it out of the oven, but I never got that, because when food sits, it gets cold. So you either have liquidy lasagna, or you have cold lasagna. This time we had the liquidy lasagna.

But my real effort was in my dessert. I had my Taste of Home Magazine, which I love, and there was a picture of these beautiful cheesecake balls. I won't duplicate the recipe here, because I will spare you the grief I experienced. In short, you bake a cheesecake, with no crust. You freeze it overnight. The next day, you let it sit out for an hour. Then you roll the cheesecake into one inch balls, and dip them in graham cracker crumbs. Well, the damn thing wouldn't roll into balls. So I decided squares would do. After I got bored cutting squares, I tossed half the cheesecake. David walked into the kitchen and said his usual "I don't know why you always try to do this kind of thing." I had to agree with him this time. So then you freeze the cheesecake balls (squares) for an hour. Then you take them out, melt white chocolate, and dip the balls (squares) into the melted chocolate. You then dip it in toppings of your choice - chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc. I forgot how much I hate working with melted chocolate. It only stays the right temperature for a few minutes. Kind of like the lasagna! So I dipped a few and gave up. The results are pictured above.

Never again.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Being Lazy

David and I subscribe to a series of Broadway shows at the downtown Cleveland Playhouse Square. We have been subscribers for over 20 years. Every year we get a renewal form and they ask if we want to keep the same seats and we say YES.

Our seats are in the last row of the orchestra section, and one is an end seat (a must for David). Not long after we joined, they turned our row into the disabled row. Our two seats are still there, attached to the floor, but the other seats are individual chairs, so people with wheelchairs can have access. The best part is the huge amount of leg room we have. It has spoiled us tremendously, because whenever we have seen shows with different seats, we feel claustrophobic. There is so much space in front of our seats that many use it as a row to cut through instead of standing in the long lines to get out.

One year the theater called to ask if we are disabled. David said no. So they moved our seats! It was terrible. We were moved back several rows. We complained, cause your seats are only supposed to stay the same or get better the longer you are a subscriber, and we got our disabled seats back.

Well we had a show tonight. I try to take off Fridays when I have a show, cause I don't have much energy to begin with, but when I have to drive downtown, drive home, drive back downtown and back home, I am not happy. But I couldn't take off today. So I left at 3:00. It was very cold and rainy. I got home and got under the covers, and David joined me. When I opened my eyes, it was 6:10. We normally leave at 6:30. I said "David, it's 6:10!" and he said "so what are we doing?" I said "well we're either going to the show or not going to the show." Not a tough decision for him, because he had been complaining that he would miss the Cavs game tonight. We had never heard of the show ("I Love You Because"), and the thought of getting dressed, driving downtown, walking in the cold wind - just wasn't appealing.

So we're hanging out at home. David and Joe are watching the Cavs. David announced "we have a serious problem in our house." I thought oh no, what big expenditure did he find now? I asked what, and he said "we have no cookies in this house." I remembered that I had bought these frozen snickerdoodles from Trader Joe's and I said I can make them. He was quite happy about that.

So I preheated the oven, and placed the pre-cut cookies on a cookie sheet, and I smiled to myself as I thought of all the blogs I subscribe to, where they show the bowl of dough being mixed and then the final product. Eighteen minutes later, voila, they were done. They are QUITE good. And quite easy.

I needed this lazy night.

And I will admit to further laziness in that I didn't photograph these cookies - I found a picture online.