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Corbett Children's Theater stages 'Fiddler on the Roof'



You could say Corbett resident Isaiah Johnson, 18, was born to play Tevye, the boisterous Orthodox Jewish father of five daughters in the iconic 1964 musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KAREN HAWLEY  - From left: Sunny Isaac, Kiera McPherson, Simeon Johnson and Eden Estes perform a bottle dance in 'Fiddler on the Roof,' which runs from March 3-12.

“I’m naturally a loud person,” Johnson says with a chuckle. “I’m already a big character who people sometimes have to take in small doses.”

Johnson belongs to the 64-member cast and crew of Corbett Children’s Theater staging “Fiddler” at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, as well as at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 3 to 12, in The Chapel, 27132 S.E. Stark St., Troutdale.

Tickets are $12, and $9 for students and seniors. You can learn more at corbettchildrenstheater.com.

Johnson says Tevye’s most famous song in the musical, “If I Were A Rich Man,” takes a lot of practice.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: KAREN HAWLEY  - Jessie Turner, left, plays Tzeitel, the daughter of Tevye, played by Isaiah Johnson, in Corbett Children's Theater's production of Fiddler on the Roof.

“It’s the one where I have to sing the largest range and the loudest,” he says. “It’s the iconic song, and everybody expects it to be good.”

What’s interesting about the play, which depicts the tensions in pre-Soviet Russia between Jews and Orthodox Christians as well as between Marxists and traditional thinkers, is how it focuses on a slice of life more than 100 years ago with which Johnson says people may not be familiar. Embodying some of the tensions the play examines is the revolutionary Perchik, portrayed by Riley Hopper, 17, who attends Mt. Hood Community College.

“I have different views than other people in the town,” Hopper says of his character, whom Tevye hires to tutor his daughters. In one wedding scene, Perchik crosses a rope between the men and women who up till then only danced with those of their own gender. The wedding guests initially gasp and view the taboo-breaking as a “sin” when Perchik takes the hand of Holde, one of Tevye’s daughters.

“They react like it’s a scandal,” Hopper says.

Character match

Claire Hocking, 17, a senior at Corbett High School, had to learn to temporarily change her own more lighthearted take on life to a more stern and strict view to better play Tevye’s sharp-tongued wife, Golde.

“She and I are very different,” Hocking says. “I kind of have to give myself a couple minutes in preparation to think I’m not Claire, I’m Golde.”

Hocking admits that playing the character may affect her own mood sometimes.

“I’ll be shorter with people and get annoyed with people,” she says with a laugh.

Working to make everyone on stage happy is what occupies the mind of lighting technician Josh Layton, 18, a Corbett High senior.

“It is a thing that tends to go unnoticed to most audience members unless they happen to be a person who has done lighting themselves,” he says. “The audience is just happy the stage is lit and they can see the actors.”

Corbett Children’s Theater encourages all its members to take on technical tasks at one time or another, Layton says, in order to develop mutual respect between cast and crew. For his part, he enjoys walking in the shoes of the lighting director.

“I get to pick what lights I’m going to aim where,” he says. “The directors give me a lot of free rein to do all the design and the plots.”

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