Theatre director himself being directed as Tevye
By Eva Trieger
VISTA–David Ellenstein, Artistic Director of North Coast Repertory Theater in Solana Beach, set aside some time for an interview between rehearsals for Fiddler on the Roof at Moonlight Amphitheater and his home theater’s summer tap dancing extravaganza. He has eagerly embraced the role of Tevye, an observant Jew, living in Czarist Russia at the turn of the century.
What is intriguing to me and I imagine, to others, is the notion that David will go from being director to being directed. Fortunately, Ellenstein’s vast experience as an actor allows him to “turn off his director voice and trust in the direction and criticisms of the Director.” Ellenstein is able to do this by “giving over to the character fully, not judging but embodying what” he is doing. Though Ellenstein has not previously been directed by Kathy Brombacher, hesays he knows and respects her skill, and further he trusts that she understands the space, size and scope of the Moonlight Amphitheater.
Trust is apparently the key factor to this equation. The actor must trust that the director divines more insight and encompasses more angles. The director has knowledge of depth of character that the actor may not. This enables him/her to provide additional dimensions and help the actor in culling and developing these attributes. Ellenstein told me that he and Brombacher share a mutual respect, where each asks the other for feedback and takes the information under consideration. He stated that a good directed “wants discourse,” asking his actor, “What would you like to try?”
When asked why Fiddler on the Roof enjoys such universal popularity, Ellenstein postulated that everyone can relate to its theme of dealing with the change as it conflicts with tradition. He noted that what was “valid 1,000 years ago will still be valid 1,000 from now” and that all change is difficult and necessary. Ellenstein asserted that the show is uplifting and educational. It has great music and is rich in humor. “It is a moving story of adaptation and joy.”
As Tevye, what Ellenstein hopes to bring to the Moonlight is a sense of the character’s “big hearted, open minded and adaptable” mien. Though it goes against Tevye’s grain and religious convictions, he accepts that he must tolerate and embrace the new world in which he and his family find themselves.
Ellenstein is but one link in a family chain of directors and actors. Indeed, Peter Ellenstein, David’s brother, is the artistic director of the Inge Festival in Kansas City. Ellenstein’s father was an actor and director in his day, and even David’s grandfather directed others in his capacity as mayor of Newark, New Jersey!
This role at Moonlight offers Ellenstein a chance to embody Tevye and demonstrate the difficulties in acquiescing to the formerly unpalatable by using wit, humor and love. He proves that while one must accept change he can still celebrate and cleave to his roots. Ellenstein reported that his performance is dedicated to his grandfather, father and his sons so that they will perpetuate this credo. In a word, tradition!
“Fiddler” will be presented July 28 through August 11 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Dr., Vista. Tickets and information: (760) 724-2110
Trieger is a freelance writer who specializes in the arts. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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