In Part 3 of a series of interviews with the daughters of Tevye in Arena Stage’s Fiddler on the Roof, meet Shayna Blass.
Joel: Introduce yourself to our readers, and tell them where they may have seen you on local stages in the past year.
Shayna: I am Shayna Blass and the first week of rehearsals for Fiddler was my last week of shows playing Yentl in Yentl at Theatre J.
Have you ever appeared in a production of Fiddler on the Roof before and who did you play?
Yes! At Walter Johnson High School, my junior year, I played Yente.
Have you ever performed in the round before and how does performing in the round make this production so special for the audience?
I haven not performed in the round before. Fiddler on the Roof (and the Jewish religion) is all about community. I feel that Arena Stage allows for the audience to get a 360 degree view of the struggles Tevye and his family face. In a proscenium theater, the audience only gets one side.
Who are you playing in Fiddler on the Roof at Arena Stage and how do you personally relate to her?/
I am playing Shprintze, the fourth daughter. Being 4 of 5, I think she’s constantly trying to fight to be heard amongst her other sisters. She definitely feels different than the other girls. She’s a little spunky and clumsy, and I can definitely relate to that.
What daughter is very similar to you and why?
Shprintze! She’s always running around and playing outside. She does what she wants!!
Which daughter reminds you of your siblings and/or other members of your family?
Hodel reminds me a lot of my sister. My (real) sister has always been the one to find a cause and fight for it, whether it be a man or saving the turtles.
Which sister has qualities that you wish you had? And what are these qualities? Which sister do you admire the most and why?
Honestly, it’s hard to single out any of the sisters and their qualities. They’re all so different. BUT, all have such a fire in them to fight for what they want and what they think is the right thing. I admire that above everything else, the fire.
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 big challenge for me was playing a girl much younger than myself. Not so much in age, but in spirit. Not only is Molly an incredible director, but she’s a collaborator. Even though my part is small, I never felt small in this process. She opened up the relationships in this family, living in Russia in the early twentieth century. In trying to understand her age, Molly allowed Shprintze (and me) to be a big part of this family, no matter how innocent she was about the world around her.
What’s your favorite musical number in Fiddler that you do not perform in the show?
“Do You Love Me?” is my favorite. There’s so much concentration on the sisters and their story, but I’ve always been interested in my parent’s (Tevye and Golde’s) relationship. I love when the audience gets to see their ‘love.’ It’s a very different type of love than we’re expected to have now. But it works. They raise five beautiful, healthy daughters.
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?
This play takes place at the turn of the century. Life for Jews (and most of the world) was changing rapidly. The differences and expectations of life from parent to child was drastic. I think we can still see that today. The world is changing all around us, and very quickly. We either have to bend or break.
In 5 words or less -how would you describe Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock’s score of Fiddler on the Roof?
I only need one: memorable.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in Fiddler on the Roof?
The end of the show is really hard to take in, but I always feel a sense of hope when the final lights go out. I hope everyone can go home to their families or friends and hug them a little tighter. Human beings are nothing if not resilient, but it’s always important to love what you have, when you have it.
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.
‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at Arena Stage at The Mead Center for American Theater review by David Siegel on DCMetroTheaterArts.