In Part 1 of a series of interviews with the daughters of Tevye in Arena Stage’s Fiddler on the Roof, meet Dorea Schmidt.
Joel: Introduce yourself to our readers, and tell them where they may have seen you on local stages in the past year.
Dorea: This past year I played Babe in Crimes of the Heart at Everyman Theatre and Procne in The Love of the Nightingale at Constellation Theatre. This summer I was away in NYC doing an intensive with the William Esper Studio, so Fiddler is my first show back!
Have you ever appeared in a production of Fiddler on the Roof before and who did you play?
I played Hodel in 9th grade– the production is a still a subject of hilarity in my family.
Have you ever performed in the round before and how does performing in the round make this production so special for the audience?
The closest I’ve come to it was when we did The Fantasticks a few years back with No Rules Theatre Company; we had a tennis court set up with audience on two sides. But I’ve never done a show fully in the round. It is incredible- being in the round makes this production so ALIVE. When I’m not in a scene I’ve been going out into the house and sitting in a different spot each time- and every seat is amazing. You feel like you are a member of this tight-knit community- experiencing the journeys of these characters full on. It’s very exciting.
Who are you playing in Fiddler on the Roof at Arena Stage and how do you personally relate to her?/ What daughter is very similar to you and why?
Definitely Tzeitel, who I play. She is a homebody and loves her family, her community, the traditions of her culture and her God. She is passionate and feels deeply, but is also super silly and has found a man who she can be totally herself with. She is extremely determined, and when she wants something she fights with her whole soul to get it.
Which daughter reminds you of your siblings?
I’ve got two sisters (I’m the youngest), and I’d say there are qualities of all of us in each of the girls. My sisters are very brave, passionate, determined, fun and loving women. We are all very close, but we also are strong individuals. We’ve each made our own way- letting go of certain things, clinging to others. I think anyone who is close to their family will resonate with a ton in this show.
What have been some of the challenges you have had preparing for your role and what advice did Director Molly Smith offer you that helped you with these challenges and with shaping your performance?
A couple of weeks ago, a few of us from the cast got to sing at a Jewish community center for over 150 Holocaust survivors. Getting to talk to these men and women was incredible. It gave me a new sense of responsibility to approach Tzeitel with truth and vulnerability, because these characters, their stories- it all really happened. A lot of times musicals are presentational; they aren’t rooted in reality nor given the same specificity as a play. But Molly is constantly encouraging us to make each moment simpler, more honest- to find the heartbeat of your character and invest fully in their journey.
What’s your favorite musical number in Fiddler that you do not perform in the show, and why?
Each one is so good!! I could go on about every number, but I especially love “Miracle of Miracles”. Joshua Morgan (Motel) is an amazing actor – so subtle and honest and every time he sings it he always surprises me. And I LOVE the “Bottle Dance”. We all have so much fun cheering on our incredible dancers (there aren’t any gimmicks—they really are balancing those bottles on their heads!!), and because we’re such a close cast, it’s just pure joy – us getting to shout and sing and laugh together. I sit onstage next to Joshua and he kills me; I’ve almost peed my pants many times from laughing so hard.
Fiddler on the Roof is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. What does the show still have to offer contemporary audiences and your generation of theatre goers? Why do you think these characters are so universal?
There is so much in this story that will resonate with our audiences: fighting for the life you want, dealing with change, family relationships, feeling trapped and having the courage to break away, racism, heartache, new love, community, the list goes on. It’s incredibly pertinent.
In 5 words or less -how would you describe Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s score of Fiddler on the Roof?
Celebrating life – sorrows and joys.
Fiddler on the Roof plays through January 4, 2015 at Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater-1101 6th St SW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 488-3300, or purchase them online.
Matchmaker! Matchmaker! Meet Tevye’s 5 Daughters at Arena Stage: Part 1: Dorea Schmidt.
Matchmaker! Matchmaker! Meet Tevye’s 5 Daughters at Arena Stage: Part 2: Maria Rizzo.